| We all know that Texas cities are both sprawling and car-based, and we know some of the accompanying negative impacts: it's bad for the environment, and there are few things worse than sitting in traffic while still having 40 miles to go before you're home. But a recent paper by the Brookings Institute shows the impact of sprawl and a lack of public transportation from another (and very timely) angle: jobs.
In Where the Jobs Are: Employer Access to Labor by Transit, Brookings mapped the share of jobs in an area that are served by public transportation.
The study found that over three-quarters of all jobs in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country are in neighborhoods with transit service. But of the six metro areas analyzed in Texas, only one (El Paso) has transit coverage for over three-quarters of jobs. This puts most Texas metro areas in the bottom fourth of transit coverage in the U.S..
The Texas metro areas included in the study, ordered by the lowest share of jobs accessible by public transportation to the most:
- McAllen-Edinburgh-Mission: 57.6% of jobs accessible by public transportation
- Houston: 57.8%
- Dallas-Forth Worth-Arlington: 58.2%
- Austin: 60.2%
- San Antonio: 72.6%
- El Paso - 90.4%
So unless you live in El Paso, your may not be able to access over 40 percent of jobs in the area if you don't have a car simply because you can't get there.
Not surprisingly, most of the other cities with low transit coverage are in the South - places like Mississippi, Louisianne, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. The highest coverage rates are actually in Western metro areas like Los Angeles and Seattle - not necessarily the East Coast cities that may come to mind when thinking of public transportation.
Also not surprisingly, there's a major divide within metro areas between cities and suburbs, which have an average of 95 percent jobs served by transit and 64 percent, respectively. The study concluded that:
"The suburbanization of jobs obstructs transit's ability to connect workers to opportunity and jobs to local labor pools. Fortunately, some metro areas exhibit near ubiquitous transit coverage rates and enable their jobs to access over half of their local labor pools, proving that expanded transit networks and integrated land use decisions can improve transit's utility to employers. As metro leaders continue to grapple with limited financial resources, it is critical for transit investment decisions to simultaneously address suburban coverage gaps as well as disconnected neighborhoods."
When we think about unemployment, we usually think about the problem simply in terms of employers hiring versus people seeking work. But this study shows that the way we design our cities can actually make a bad problem even worse - especially in Texas.