A USC study finds that easily getting to one’s nearest public transit stop, through means like biking or ridesharing, could be crucial for riders with limited access to public transportation in finding more jobs
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The way that public transit riders reach their nearest stop to home could make an important difference in the jobs available to them.
USC researchers found that this is especially true for low-wage workers in suburban areas with limited rail, bus and other public transportation service, according to a study that published online July 5 in the journal Transportation Research Part A.
The researchers found that car commuters in low-income neighborhoods in San Diego have about 30 times greater job accessibility than those who take public transit. The team decided to look at San Diego because of its similarities with many other large cities in America’s Sun Belt — for example, Dallas, Atlanta, Phoenix, Orlando, Las Vegas, San Jose and others — which tend to be more sprawling and have less extensive transit infrastructure.
The different ways riders leave and arrive at the stops closest to home and workplaces — what researchers term “first and last mile access” — can close this gap, even more effectively than more traditional and costly public transit measures like increasing transit frequency by adding buses and drivers.
Those short distances that bookend a commute are crucial, according to the study’s lead author, Marlon Boarnet, a professor of public policy and chair of the department of urban planning and spatial analysis at the USC Price School of Public Policy.
“Transit providers think about the system they provide and focus more on headway reductions, and you really have to think about the entire trip for riders when it comes to getting from one point of, for example, affordable housing to another easily accessible point of income generation,” he said.
Security and sustainability are among the intractable, wicked problems that are the focus of study by several USC researchers in multiple disciplines, including those at the METRANS Transportation Center, which supported the study. The Sol Price Center for Social Innovation develops ideas and illuminates strategies to improve the quality of life for people in low-income urban communities. METRANS is a collaboration of the USC Price School, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and California State University, Long Beach. It is dedicated to solving transportation problems of large metropolitan regions through interdisciplinary research, education and outreach.
Boarnet is an associate director of METRANS for the National Center for Sustainable Transportation (NCST), a research center headed by the University of California, Davis. METRANS is a member of the NCST consortium.