Research Rest-Stop — Transit and the Suburbanization of Jobs

Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities presents a new or interesting report or study highlighting transportation, energy, or sustainability. 


It’s important for an employer to site a company in an accessible location for its workforce.  This benefits the worker by having a convenient commute and it benefits the employer by having access to a large pool of labor and talent.  Prior to the automobile, this meant locating companies in or very near large population centers, i.e. cities.  In cities, public transit is able to efficiently move people from one location (an employee’s home) to another (their place of work).  However, as automobiles rose in popularity and people moved to the suburbs, public transit was no longer able to efficiently move people from place to place.

A recent report published by the Brookings Institute examines the relationship between employer, employee, and transit locations.  The report finds, ‘Over three-quarters of all jobs in the 100 largest metropolitan areas are in neighborhoods with transit service,’ but ‘the typical job is accessible to only about 27 percent of its metropolitan workforce by transit in 90 minutes or less.’  This means that employers are missing out on potential workforce talent because their offices are too far from workers’ homes.  Generally, these are the businesses that are located in the suburbs – places difficult to reach without an automobile.

Commuters wait for their train at 30th Street Station

The report recognizes that the ‘suburbanization of jobs’ is the significant factor obstructing the effectiveness of transit use for commuting.  Philadelphia is rated 54th in the 100 largest metro areas for overall worker access to transit.  Only 13.9% of all jobs outside Philadelphia are accessible by transit.  

One of the most intuitive solutions to improve worker access to transit would be to expand the transit system to the areas that lack sufficient transit.  This however is the most costly option.  Another option includes attracting businesses to the city.  Increasing the number of business in Philadelphia and Center City specifically (where there is already the greatest access to transit) will increase worker access to transit and give these suburban businesses access to a larger and more talented pool of labor.

Want to know more?

Read the Brookings Report – Where the Jobs Are: Employer Access to Labor by Transit


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