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Report: No car? No problem in Portland-Vancouver

Brookings Institution finds local transit service better than national average

TriMet and C-Tran do a far better than average job of providing service to households without cars than most transit systems in major cities, according to a recent report by the Brookings Institution.

The report, "Transit Access and Zero Vehicle Households," was released on Aug. 18. It found that 97 percent of households in the Portland-Vancouver, Wash., area without cars near transit stops. The national average is around 70 percent, the report says.

The report also found typical Portland-Vancouver residents can reach 51 percent of all jobs by transit within 90 minutes. The national average is about 30 percent of jobs, the report says.

'If you're going to keep afloat during the recession, you have to be able to get to work,' said Adie Tomer, Senior Research Analyst and author of the report. 'We knew there were pockets of households who are economically hampered by the fact that they own no car and have no access to transit, but we didn't fully understand the true scope of the problem until now.'

The report surveyed transit systems in the 100 largest metropolitan area in the country. It found that only a few perform better than TriMet and C-Tran, which serves Clark County. They include those in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Miami.

Many other transit systems perform far worse than TriMet and C-Tran. They include those in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix and St. Louis.

'Millions of zero-vehicle households live in areas well served by transit,' the report says. 'Yet hundreds of thousands of zero-vehicle households live out of transit's reach, particularly in the South and in the suburbs. And those with transit access still cannot reach a majority of jobs in metro areas within 90 minutes. Based on these trends, leaders must recognize these households' unique mobility needs and aim to improve job accessibility through sound policy.'

The report analyzed data from the American Community Survey and 371 transit providers. Among other things, the analysis revealed:

• In the nation's largest metropolitan areas, 7.5 million households do not have access to a private automobile. A majority of these zero-vehicle households live in cities and earn lower incomes. Conversely, households with vehicles tend to live in suburbs and earn middle or higher incomes. The unique locational and income characteristics of zero-vehicle households reinforce their need for strong transit service.

• More than 90 percent of zero-vehicle households in large metropolitan areas live in neighborhoods with access to transit service of some kind. This greatly exceeds the 68 percent coverage rate for households with a vehicle, suggesting transit service aligns with households who rely on it most. However, some 700,000 zero-vehicle households in the 100 largest metro areas lack access to transit.

• The typical metropolitan household without a vehicle can reach over 40 percent of metro-wide jobs via transit within 90 minutes, exceeding the 29 percent transit access share for households with a vehicle. The tendency of zero-vehicle households to live in cities contributes to their above-average access to jobs via transit. Unfortunately, limited job access via transit in most metropolitan areas leaves many jobs out of reach for zero-vehicle households.

The vast majority of transit systems in the country have raised fares, cut service or both because of the recession, according to a survey released on Aug. 17 by the American Public Transportation Association.

TriMet has been among the 71 percent of the nation's largest systems identified in the report to do so.


The full Brookings Institution report can be found at www.brookings.edu/papers/2011/0818_transportation_tomer_puentes.aspx .