May 2011

The Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution recently published Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America, which presented the results of an analysis of transit data from the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas.

This report presented the following findings:

  • Nearly 70 percent of large metropolitan residents live in neighborhoods with access to transit service of some kind.
  • In neighborhoods covered by transit, morning rush hour service occurs about once every 10 minutes for the typical metropolitan commuter.
  • The typical metropolitan resident can reach about 30 percent of jobs in their metropolitan area via transit in 90 minutes.
  • About one-quarter of jobs in low- and middle-skill industries are accessible via transit within 90 minutes for the typical metropolitan commuter, compared to one-third of jobs in high-skill industries.
  • Fifteen of the 20 metro areas that rank highest on a combined score of transit coverage and job access are in the West. Conversely, 15 of the 20 metro areas that rank lowest are in the South.

Transit systems in Wisconsin score well in each of the measures used in the report. Madison ranks 4th in jobs accessible on average in 90 minutes via transit with 58.2 percent; Milwaukee ranks 8th with 48.6 percent. In a combined ranking of access to transit and employment, Milwaukee and Madison rank 14th and 15th respectively. And both Madison and Milwaukee rank in the top 20 for the share of commuters using public transportation (16th and 20th, respectively).

Source: The Brookings Intitution

Transit systems in Wisconsin–Madison in particular–perform well in relation to population size.

Source: The Brookings Institution

Transit in Madison

Public transportation in Madison, Wisconsin is provided by a single agency: the Madison Metro Transit System, consisting entirely of buses and paratransit services.

  • Share of working age residents with access to transit: 55.7 percent.
  • Typical transit frequency: 9.3 minutes.
  • Jobs accessible on average in 90 minutes via transit: 58.2 percent.

Most notably, Madison ranks 1st in both the share of jobs accessible (the access rate) within 45 minutes and within 60 minutes and 4th in jobs accessible within 90 minutes.

Transit in Milwaukee

Public transportation in the Milwaukee metropolitan area–comprised of the cities of Milwaukee, Waukesha, and West Allis–is provided by the Milwaukee County Transit System, the City of Waukesha Transit Commission, and Washington County Transit.

  • Share of working age residents with access to transit: 67.4 percent.
  • Typical transit frequency: 6.4 minutes.
  • Jobs accessible on average in 90 minutes via transit: 48.6 percent.

Milwaukee also scores well in the access rate category, coming 7th for the share of jobs accessible within 45 minutes and 5th and 8th for 60 and 90 minute thresholds.

Room for Improvement

The measures used by the Brookings report are not without problems. As Robert Poole (Surface Transportation Innovations #91) points out:

The headline finding is that the typical metro area resident could reach about 30% of the area’s jobs via transit in 90 minutes (one-way AM commute). That is a pretty dismal result, considering that the average home-to-work commute is just under 26 minutes. That’s the average of all modes, of course, so the ubiquitous car commute is shorter than that. And the average transit commute is about 48 minutes. You have to read a good ways into the report (Box 2 on page 13) before you find their modeling results using a more realistic one-way commute time. If you use 60 minutes instead of 90, only 13% of jobs are reachable by transit in the typical large metro area. And if you use 45 minutes (very close to the average transit commute of 48 minutes), a mere 7% of jobs are reachable.

Based on this modeling, Poole concludes, contrary to the conclusions of the Brookings authors, that transit has a relatively minor affect on jobs and that workers shift to commuting by automobile at the earliest possible opportunity. However, it remains to be seen whether this trend continues in the face of tougher job market, downward wage pressures, and increasing gas prices–all of which reduce amount of income that low- and middle-wage earners have to spend on personal transportation.

More importantly, these models make it clear that while many transit systems–including those in Wisconsin’s two largest metropolitan areas–are functioning relatively well, there is a great deal of room for improvement and that improvements in transit operation would positively effect the ability for workers to reach their jobs.

The Way Forward

The report takes Wisconsin’s two major metropolitan areas as an example of both successful transit/job systems and as systems under threat:

Yet the program cuts proposed statewide are expected to lead to increased fares and the reduction or elimination of certain transit services in these places. One analysis shows that the funding reductions to the Milwaukee County system alone would make 25,000 currently served jobs “inaccessible by transit” and would be directly burdensome to low-income workers. This would be on top of the estimated 40,000 jobs made inaccessible in that metro due to transit cuts from 2001 to 2007.

In an economy that is showing slow and tentative signs of recovery, it’s crucial that workers continue to be able to get to work. Making jobs inaccessible by transit in any part of the state–but especially in the economic engines of Milwaukee and Dane counties–will only retard economic growth in these areas. The recent spike in gas prices only exacerbates this problem, especially for workers in lower income brackets who spend a proportionally larger share of their income on transportation. For these workers, a loss of transit options may mean the difference between being able to get to work, having to look for another position closer to home, having to move closer to work, or–at worst–unemployment.

Transit connects workers and their jobs and does so in an efficient and lower-cost manner that leaves workers with more of their income to spend on the other necessities–and luxuries–of life. It’s never a good idea to cut transit funding, and now is an especially bad time to do so.

Scott Janowiak has been awarded the 2011 Andrew Muzi Yellow Jersey Fellowship. Janowiak’s growing interest in commuting, long-distance bicycle touring, and his internship with B-cycle all contributed to his selection for this award.

In 2009, Janowiak rode from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Bar Harbor, Maine. In the course of this trip, he sustained a serious eye injury, took an award-winning photograph, and made a firm decision to attend graduate school in order to focus his career on urban planning and transportation.

During his internship with B-cycle (Madison’s new bike-sharing program), Janowiak attended and participated in logistics meetings, met with a variety of city of officials, and worked with Trek (B-cycle’s parent company) to plan and select bike-share stations. This allowed him to apply his planning knowledge and provide station-location recommendations to program directors. This internship also gave him direct experience in helping plan a collaboration between a private company and several municipal agencies.

Greg Waidley, Scott Janowiak, and Teresa Adams

Janowiak is currently working toward a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also pursuing a certificate in Transportation Management and Policy (TMP). He is scheduled to graduate in 2012.

“After graduation next year, I hope to enter into a role in which I can improve a community’s options for alternative transportation,” says Janowiak. “Changing transportation behavior is a matter of access, convenience, and competitive levels of service compared to the automobile. I would like to find myself in a planning position that allows me to contribute to the improvements of these factors.”

CFIRE awards this $500 scholarship to a bicycling enthusiast and student in the Transportation Management and Policy Program. The award is sponsored by the Dane County Bicycle Association “to honor the lifetime contribution of Andrew Muzi to cycling in the Greater Madison Area.” The award recipient is a cycling enthusiast who upon graduation plans to assume a professional position that will influence the future design of facilities and infrastructure that support safe and effective bicycling.

“Receiving the Muzi award is an honor,” says Janowiak. “Living in Madison has shown me the potential of the bicycle . . . close to a perfect machine!  It’s been great to see constant improvements throughout the city to make cycling safer and easier for everybody.”

Join us in congratulating Scott Janowiak, the winner of the 2011 Muzi Fellowship.

Managing Conflicts Between Distinct Vehicle Classes on Road Networks

May 25, 2011

You are invited to attend a presentation on vehicle conflict management on Thursday, May 26 from 12-1pm. Dr. Michael Cassidy, University of California- Berkeley Room 1610 Engineering Hall University of Wisconsin-Madison Abstract The seminar examines the disruptive vehicular interactions that arise when distinct vehicle classes, such as cars and buses, share the same roadway; and […]

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Two WisDOT Pavement Management RFPs

May 17, 2011

The Wisconsin DOT, Pavement Management Unit, has posted two Request for Proposals. The first proposal is for instrumentation of a new barrier system. The second proposal is for instrumentation of a composite pavement. For more information, consult the RFPs and proposal preparation guidelines. The deadline for questions related to the project is June 1. Proposals are […]

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Transportation Planner

May 17, 2011

Planner 2: Transportation Planner City of Madison, Wisconsin The City of Madison (Wisconsin) is currently hiring a Transportation Planner for the Planning Division of the Department of Planning and Community and Economic Development. For more information, consult the job description and application materials. Applications are due by 4:30pm on June 3, 2011.

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CFIRE’s Fuchs named Presidential Management Fellow

May 12, 2011

CFIRE project assistant Patrick Fuchs was recently named a Presidential Management Fellow in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President. During his two-year fellowship, Fuchs will focus on reviewing federal transportation and homeland security regulations before they are published. This review aims to […]

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WisDOT Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day

May 10, 2011

On Thursday, April 28th Wisconsin DOT took part in a nationwide effort, “Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day.” This program’s aim is not only exposing girls and boys to what a parent or mentor in their lives does during the work day but also showing them the value of their education, helping them […]

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