One convenient feature of having a strong central city is that it allows a region to build a good transit system. The unfortunate trend in the past few decades to move jobs into the suburbs has seriously degraded this transit potential.
Brookings released data this week detailing both how accessable jobs are via transit, and the share of working-age residents that can access these jobs within 90 minutes using transit. In Seattle (pdf), we do quite well in terms of serving jobs with transit. In fact, we’re #3 in the nation, with 99.3% of all jobs accessable by transit in our region – and a full 100% accessable by transit in our cities.
However, those rosy numbers don’t show the full picture. It’s not important that you can get to your job from somewhere, you want to reach it from your home. This number shrinks all the way down to 30.8%, 26th in the nation, and represents the percent of the metropolitin population can reach a typical job within 90 minutes using transit.
Why is there such a strong difference between these numbers? Because a hub-and-spoke model transit system requires a long journey often in the wrong direction to go from two points that aren’t near the hub. If you live in a suburb and you work in a different suburb, there is likely no easy transit access between your work and your home. An efficient region would have most jobs in a central city, and our region has lost this transit efficiency as jobs have grown in the suburbs.