Author:Zimmerman, Rae

Introduction 1132 I. Analyzing Transit and Jobs for Sustainability 1135 A. The Importance to Society and Sustainability of Transit and its Proximity to Jobs 1135 B. Methodologies for Transit and Job Relationships 1136 C. General Patterns and Trends Nationwide for Selected Bus and Rail Transit Systems 1137 II. Heavy Rail and Other Fixed Guideway Modes 1138 A. Shares of Transit Modes Relative to Other Modes 1138 B. U.S. Rates of Change in Heavy and Light Rail Transit 1140 III. HR Systems and Job Characteristics Around HR Stations in New York City 1141 A. Job Density Change 1142 B. Job Density or Concentration 1144 IV. Connectivity and Support Among Transit Systems 1146 V. Factors Influencing the TOD/Job Phenomenon 1147 Conclusion 1151 INTRODUCTION

Transit has supported sustainability within, around, and connected to urban areas through job attraction, environmental and climate benefits, and other job-related benefits associated with proximity to transit. The extent to which jobs are attracted to transit varies by urban area, type of rail system, and employment sector. (1) The relationship between jobs and transit accessibility is an important component of sustainability.

Development around transit is typically referred to as transit-oriented development ("TOD"). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") has defined the concept as a "compact development built around a transit station or within easy walking distance (typically a half-mile) of a station and containing a mix of land uses such as housing, offices, shops, restaurants, and entertainment." (2) The type of development varies. The concept of the TOD is an old one, and a review by Ian Carlton linked it directly to sustainability and identified its introduction initially with Peter Calthorpe and the expansion of the term by others. (3) Other reviews similarly support the relationship between rail transit and job density. (4)

Transit systems are typically categorized as including light rail transit ("LRT"), bus rapid transit ("BRT"), street car transit ("SCT"), commuter rail ("CR"), and heavy rail ("HR"). (5) In his article, Professor Nelson evaluates LRT, SCT, and BRT with respect to job attraction, transit accessibility, and characteristics of urban areas that support the job and transit relationship for groupings of certain economic sectors within defined alternative radii around transit. (6) Studies other than Nelson's have examined this relationship using fewer nodes and geographic areas. (7) Nelson's study included eleven LRT, three SCT, and eight BRT systems. (8) These account for about half of the LRT systems, about a third of the SCT systems, and all of the BRT systems in the U.S. (9) The LRT, SCT, and BRT transit systems serve more decentralized populations relative to those served by HR; LRT, SCT, and BRT have been important drivers of TODs, as Nelson observes, and their growth rates support Nelson's focus on these systems. (10) LRT in particular has grown substantially in terms of the number of systems, passenger trips, and miles traveled, as indicated by the analyses of data from the American Public Transportation Association ("APTA") and the U.S. DOT National Transit Database ("NTD"). (11)

While LRT, SCT, and BRT modes generally account for a lower share of transit ridership, they have been shown to have grown the fastest during many time periods according to the APTA and NTD. (12) This Article complements Nelson's emphasis on LRT, SCT, and BRT in highlighting how HR transit also supports job growth. Given the higher ridership that HR can and does support, it has the potential to attract jobs on a larger scale. Though, as Nelson points out, there may have been a disinvestment in HR, (13) HR transit still commands a very large share of urban transit, as discussed later in this Article. (14) A few studies have focused on the HR and employment relationship. (15) This Article makes a case for HR as an attractor of jobs and an important complement to other modes of travel, while advocating for further research into other factors that contribute to job growth at transit stations. Part I of the Article provides context for the study of transit and jobs for sustainability, with an emphasis on HR. Part II provides an evaluation of HR systems with respect to the important role they play along with smaller services like LRT, SCT, and BRT in attracting jobs. Part III explores data from New York City ("NYC") that illustrates job attraction at HR stations. Part IV identifies the connectivity between HR and the other transit systems as a key factor in the success of rail and bus transit overall. Part V identifies factors other than jobs that potentially promote TOD growth around transit stations either directly or indirectly. Lastly, the Article concludes with observations about the TOD analysis.


    The first part of the Article addresses the relationship between transit, jobs, and sustainability in three sections. First, it discusses the importance of transit and its proximity to jobs to society and sustainability. Second, it presents methodologies to evaluate transit and job relationships. Third, it provides general patterns and trends nationwide for selected bus and rail transit systems as context for the HR analysis in Part II that follows.

    1. The Importance to Society and Sustainability of Transit and its Proximity to Jobs

      Transit is a strong magnet for development in a number of different forms, and in particular for job growth. To the extent that workers use the transit that is nearby, concentrating jobs and residences around transit hubs has the potential for achieving sustainability goals by promoting less carbon intensive ways of traveling to work. (16) Accordingly, LRT, SCT, BRT, and HR play key roles in achieving sustainability goals. Rail systems, however, in different cities vary considerably in carbon loading, which affects their relative contributions to sustainability. (17)

      Nelson's study period encompasses the recession in the mid- to late 2000s and the recovery period, from 2008 to 2011, (18) and identifies job attractiveness to transit by geographic location and sector. Since the post-recession period from about 2008 to 2011 experienced slower employment growth, (19) Nelson selects only those systems operating approximately around the time of the recession. Looking at job changes during that time period could represent conservative changes in jobs, given that one would expect negative impacts on jobs at that time. One explanation for how job changes respond to transit is that transit infrastructure (e.g., stations, systems, or tracks) may not have been as affected by the recession given the longer planning period for that infrastructure.

    2. Methodologies for Transit and Job Relationships

      A number of methodologies and databases are used to evaluate the relationship between the proximity of transit and job development. This Article relies on the U.S. Census Bureau Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics database ("LEHD"), (20) also used in a number of works (21) including Nelson's study. (22) This Article also uses the related U.S. Census product from OnTheMap for job density change. (23) Job density is one indicator of the prevalence and strength of TOD, as is job growth. Nelson also points out that other activities are attracted to transit, such as residential development, and are alternative TOD indicators. (24)

      The EPA has assembled a series of factors in a database to measure accessibility to jobs via transit. These factors were initially issued as part of the EPA's Smart Location database, and underscore what is commonly identified, for example, in Litman's study as the transportation and land use connection, where increasingly spread out land uses result in greater dependency on automotive travel that produce more pollution. (25) The EPA uses LEHD data to identify the percentage of jobs available for each U.S. Census block. The EPA defines accessibility to work as being a commute time of forty-five minutes, including intermediate factors such as waiting, transferring among modes, and walking to and from the transit location. (26) To summarize, job density or concentration and job growth have emerged as commonly used indicators for development around transit stations, (27) with the caveat that factors other than transit proximity are possible attractors for development near transit stations as well, (28) which are often difficult to identify and isolate from transit effects.

    3. General Patterns and Trends Nationwide for Selected Bus and Rail Transit Systems

      Though Americans remain heavily reliant on vehicle (e.g., automobile) travel, transit has gained increasing popularity since the beginning of the twentieth century. In fact, as Nelson indicates in his article, (29) transit can compete with or at least complement car travel. Vehicle miles of travel ("VMT") increased dramatically in the first part of the twentieth century but then the rate slowed during the latter part of the first decade of the twenty-first century. (30)

      Non-HR "fixed guideway" or rail systems have become increasingly prominent travel modes. Indicators of this change, usually applied from the beginning of the twentieth century onward, (31) include length of track, rail mileage traveled, and ridership. TODs stand to benefit significantly by taking advantage of these systems, as Nelson points out in his article. (32)

      LRT, in particular, is a rapidly growing transit sector compared to HR, and the NTD attributes the increase of 5.6% in fixed guideway systems between 2006-2015 partly to expansions in LRT and SCT. (33) Still, HR commands a very large share of both transit ridership and miles traveled. Moreover, HR had a robust rate of increase from 2000 through 2014 described in more detail in the next section, which is at most times comparable to LR, especially given the very large HR base. (34) Part II...

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