Solving Cities

700,000 lack transit, car access in major U.S. cities

700,000 lack transit, car access in major U.S. cities

Posting in Cities

Many choose to be carless in the city. But 700,000 households in the largest U.S. metro regions have no access to cars or transit.

Many choose to be carless in the city. In places like New York City where there's adequate public transportation a car isn't necessary and can be more of a hassle than it's worth.

But for more than 700,000 households in the largest U.S. metro regions there's no choice of either mode, car or transit. That's according to a new analysis by Brookings Institution of data from the American Community Survey, 371 transit providers, and the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S.

What metro regions have the lowest transit coverage rates for its carless households?

  • Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga. - 68.5%
  • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas - 71.2%
  • Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas - 73.4%
  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. - 80.9%
  • St. Louis, Mo., Ill. - 82.2%

Now these numbers might seem adequate enough, but consider the thousands of people who will struggle to get to work. In Atlanta that means nearly 40,000 households will not be able to easily navigate the city and reliably get back and forth from jobs.

And while, in total, 90 percent of households in the largest U.S. metros can get around by transit, it's important to consider what "access" means. Only 40 percent of households with transit access can get to jobs via transit within 90 minutes.

At the other end of the spectrum, what metro areas have the highest transit coverage rate for people without car access?

  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Calif. - 99.1%
  • New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY- NJ-PA - 98.7%
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA - 98.1%
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA - 97.3%
  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL - 97.2%

Other key findings:

  • More people who go carfree in the city have access to transit (99%), while for those who are carless in the suburbs only 58% have transit access
  • 7.5 million households do not have access to a car but can travel by transit. Most of these households, 61 percent, live in cities and most -- 60 percent -- are low-income
  • New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles have the highest number of households which do not own cars

While there are plenty of examples of exciting, sustainable and alternative modes of transportation, from bike share to bus rapid transit, transportation must reach all people to keep metro regions thriving and sustainable. The connectivity of people is what helps make metro areas economically vibrant. And being in the middle of a jobs crisis we should make it easier to connect people with jobs, not harder.

Photo: Via Flickr

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure