Bus rapid transit study offers insights for boosting job growth near station areas

BRT

Photo: Metro Transit

In coming years, bus rapid transit (BRT) will play a growing role in the Twin Cities transit system. Later this year the A Line will open along Snelling Avenue in Roseville and St. Paul; plans for the Metro Orange Line (along I-35W in the south metro), Metro Gold Line (along I-94 in the east metro) and additional arterial BRT lines are advancing; and the Metro Red Line (along Cedar Avenue in the south metro) is continuing to grow.

“One of the drivers behind the transitway build-out is to increase employment access by transit,” says Andrew Guthrie, research fellow with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. ”Achieving that to the fullest extent possible requires job growth in station areas. Even if the same number of jobs would have been added elsewhere in the region without the transitway, jobs that are easily accessible by transit have additional social benefits.”

In a project funded by the Transitway Impacts Research Program (TIRP), Guthrie and co-investigator Yingling Fan compared job-change rates around dedicated guideway BRT, arterial BRT (in which buses operate primarily in mixed traffic), and light-rail transit (LRT) corridors before and after implementation in 15 regions around the nation. BRT corridors include high-amenity stops, signal priority, and off-board fare collection.

The researchers separated jobs into different sector categories defined by skill level and type of work. In addition, they separately considered differences between low-wage and higher-wage jobs.

One key finding is that job growth varies among the different transitway modes. “The greatest difference in station-area job change was between some type of fixed infrastructure and no continuous fixed infrastructure at all,” Guthrie explains. In addition, arterial BRT attracted fewer station-area jobs than LRT or dedicated guideway BRT.

The team also found differences by job sector and wage. “Businesses hoping transit brings customers to their area prefer rail, while businesses that see transit more as improving access for employees see little difference between LRT and dedicated guideway BRT,” Guthrie explains. Arterial BRT stations were associated with significantly less job growth than otherwise similar LRT stations; overall, job growth was strongest in stations closest to downtown areas (where many arterial BRT corridors are located). Distance from the central business district was a strong negative predictor of both white-collar and high-wage job growth.

Another key finding is that total street mileage (excluding limited access highways)—a measure of transportation network density—was a significant, positive predictor of jobs. Finally, the study found that regional factors, such as rate of job change after implementation, are highly important in determining changes in station-area jobs. According to Guthrie, this finding speaks to the importance of broad, regional policies that support economic growth. It also shows strong potential for future BRT station areas in the Twin Cities region to share in regional job growth, he says.

TIRP was launched by the Hennepin County–University of Minnesota partnership and has grown to include a mix of funding partners and program supporters.

For more information, read the full article in the February issue of Catalyst.

Posted in Planning, Public transit, Transportation research

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