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A Multi Case Study Approach of Selected Cities
By: Timothy Shah Prepared for: Professor Lawrence Frank
February 11, 2011
Introduction This paper will address how transportation investments and decisions have increased overall accessibility for lower income populations in North America and abroad. It will highlight the indispensable nature of public transit in improving job accessibility. As planners, when we think of, and conceptualize transportation accessibility, we realize that it is more than just the gravity model. There are inherent socio-economic considerations in accessibility that transportation engineers seem to overlook. Poor single mothers in the United States, for example, have special household activities and responsibilities to take their children to daycare or to school. They could be living in a neighbourhood distant from public transit which not only hinders their accessibility to activities for their kids, but can erode their quality of life and employment prospects (Cervero et al. 2002).
A number of U.S. cities continue to corroborate the spatial mismatch hypothesis, that is, the lack of both affordable housing near employment centers and reliable, rapid transportation significantly harms employment outcomes for the urban poor (Fan et al. 2010). There continue to be active debates about what sort of transportation investments can most effectively connect lowincome citizens to job opportunities. While places such as Hong Kong have overcome the spatial mismatch hypothesis, this city still faces immense congestion challenges and poor non-motorized travel options. These problems lead me to ask: what are the different techniques being used by cities to improve job accessibility via transportation? A second question is: how can cities overcome their inherent challenges through the use of Transportation Control Measures (TCMs), which are discussed at length by scholars such as Michael D Meyer and Eric J Miller (2001).
As indicated, this paper will critically evaluate how transportation decisions (both private and public) can enhance accessibility to employment for low-income citizens. Transportation decisions can take form through locating transit near affordable housing (light-rail, BRT, or subway line) and it could also take the form through providing incentives and subsidies for the poor to use public transit to improve access to jobs or to get them out of welfare more generally. This paper is structured into several case studies which illustrate how transportation has improved job accessibility for low-income citizens. The breadth of case studies act as
preliminary evidence of the aforementioned; the analysis will be strengthened by recommending TCMs and its place in revitalizing and in improving the overall urban form.
Mass Transit Approach in Hong Kong Hong Kong has attracted scholarly attention from several academic fields including transportation research and urban planning. With 7 million inhabitants and a population density of 6,420 persons per km2, it has developed an urban form conducive for rapid and advanced public transportation (Government of Hong Kong, 2010). Areas such as Kowloon and Hong Kong Island have densities of 43,970 people per km2 and 16,220 per km2 respectively – this has justified the need for a robust and efficient transit network. Indeed, public transit provides virtually complete coverage of the region and carries over 90 percent of the area’s 11 million daily trips (Lo et al. 2008). Hong Kong has a sizeable low and middle-income population; as of March 31, 2010, about 2.06 million people (30 per cent of the population lived in public rental housing (PRH) estates and another 130,000 people are on the waiting list for such housing (Hong Kong Housing Policy, 2010).
In spite of the exceptionally high real-estate costs, the spatial proximity between locations and efficient public transport services has improved people’s access to employment; unemployment is a mere 2.3 percent in this city (Lau & Chiu, 2003). Further, this spatial proximity has minimized the travel time differences between the different groups to an insignificant level. This suggests that the development of the Mass Transit Railway (MRT) system has effectively catered to both poor and rich alike. From a planning perspective, the compact land-use structure enhances the operations of public transport. The dominance of public transport in Hong Kong encourages the concentration of population along main mass transit lines (Lau & Chiu, 2003). While the motivations for concentrating housing along transit lines may me more financial in nature, these gains in efficiency have widespread socio-economic implications. Ultimately, this interaction contributes to the accessibility of low-income workers.
The Mass Transit Railway stations and bus interchanges attract the clustering of the other related feeder public transport modes, that is, taxis and public light buses carrying passengers from inaccessible urban areas to the crowded older urban areas. A key success of transportation
accessibility in Hong Kong has been attributed to adequate modal-integration. In the New Territories region, which has a higher concentration of low-income citizens, there are light-rail transit lines that are well-connected to heavy-rail lines (Lo et al. 2008). This integration has allowed for better inter-district commuting within the New Territories but also faster commutes to lower paying and lower skilled jobs located in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island (Lo et al. 2008). Certain districts including East Kowloon and Aberdeen rely on public light buses to carry citizens to satisfy their daily mobility needs. In general, buses have the highest modal share for low-income citizens at just over 40 percent (Lau & Chiu, 2003).
The progressive nature of public transit expansion has significantly improved job accessibility for Hong Kong’s populace. Local public policies have sought to include affordable transit fare costs to accommodate those most dependent on public transit i.e. low-income citizens. It costs on average about HK$0.35 (4 cents CAN) per minute to ride the (MTR) in Hong Kong (Lo et al. 2008) Relative to the median monthly income of HK$10,000 (Census and Statistics Department, 2006), that cost is about 10 percent lower than the average per minute cost of sample trips on the Tube around Central London, or 60 percent lower than the Mass Railway Transit in Singapore, based on the median monthly income of £2,092 in London and the median monthly income of SGD$1,064 in Singapore (Lo et al. 2008). This portends that the MTR system is subsidized by the government in a way that benefits all income groups and justifies further expansion of public transit infrastructure across the region. Hong Kong’s land use policies encourage the development of ―compact, high-density township; accompanying transport policies that grant high priority to the development of mass transit facilities; and additional government actions that ensure the financial viability of privately provided PTS, especially the innovative approach of integrating the development of transport facilities and property so as to exploit the synergy between them‖ (Lo et al. 2008, p. 25).
Notwithstanding the innovation and success of public transport in Hong Kong, the city has an opportunity to expand its system through the use of transportation control measures. As noted, it costs on average HK $0.35 per minute to ride the MTR, but this is still too expensive for the city’s poorest; also, there are still too many private vehicles on the congested roads. As a way to
complement the rail-property model utilized in the city (e.g. see Cervero & Murakami, 2008), Hong Kong has a long way to go in reducing traffic congestion and expanding the city’s cycling infrastructure. Meyer and Miller (2001) explain how planners are starting to use TCMs such as congestion pricing, toll programs and alternative transit service improvements and expansion to address urban congestion problems. These aforementioned TCMs could benefit Hong Kong commuters, especially low-income workers who use bicycles as a means of transport to work.
The South China Morning Post this past summer reported the egregious traffic congestion problems around the Cross Harbour Tunnel – the main tunnel that takes residents from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. The toll for this tunnel is significantly cheaper than the privately-owned and operated Eastern and Western crossings; consequently, traffic is poorly distributed (Wong, 2010). The operators of the Western Harbour Crossing, despite underperforming in use, raised tunnel tolls in August 2010. This action not only compounds the traffic distribution problem, but affects public transport users as fares start to increase. There is a great opportunity here for the government to step in with more sensible transport policies. A toll pricing mechanism can be introduced as a TCM to not only better distribute traffic and hence improve flow, but provide additional revenues for subsidizing the public buses that use these tunnels and are overwhelmingly occupied by low-income citizens. Public buses constitute 40 percent of the modal split to work in Hong Kong (Lau & Chiu, 2003).
It would be most sensible to introduce peak-hour pricing. In short, the busiest hours in the morning and evening would have a higher toll rate simply for the purpose of re-distributing traffic across the three tunnels. Public buses and other modes of public transit would have to have special toll rates and have right of way when it comes to using the tunnels. At present, they do not have right of way. The consequences of low tunnel fares have created traffic problems that delay the poor (and other income groups) from getting to work. This TCM is needed as it would improve overall accessibility of transportation and flow of traffic in Hong Kong’s compact urban form. Another TCM that would benefit Hong Kong is the provision of alternative transit services such as cycling lanes and infrastructure. Christine Loh, director of a Hong Kong think tank Civic Exchange, has vociferously argued for better cycling infrastructure in the city. Cycling infrastructure is abysmal mainly due to the finite amount of space cyclists are allocated
on the road. The Hong Kong Census Department does not even keep track of the number of bicycles, cyclists and daily bike trips (Loh, 2010). This data is needed for planners and policymakers to recommend and make sensible transit improvements.
In a New Territories district called Sha Tin, 33.5 percent of the residents cycle more than once a week and 65 percent see cycling as mode of transport (Loh, 2010). As Loh contends, making cycling easier in any city requires policies to create an extensive network of cycling lanes and provision for bike parking; getting other vehicles to slow down; modifying road intersections; integrating bicycles with public transport; and public education (Loh, 2010). These changes can all be brought about by planners as a viable TCM called ―land use design and attention to neighbourhood design for nonmotorized travel‖. The land use changes in various neighbourhoods across the city should prioritize bike lanes. By providing such lanes, low-income citizens could be provided with choice: taking public transit, cycling, walking and driving. Driving will eventually become less popular however with further expansions of both transit and non-motorized travel.
If the congestion problems continue unabated, then land use for nonmotorized travel will become even more indispensable for allowing people to access jobs. Funding must also be made regionwide to support this alternative means of transport especially for those who cannot purchase a vehicle or find public transit fares out of reach. This is a necessary investment for transit equity and will require rigid TCMs such as pricing and road priority to mitigate the hitherto overwhelming counts of road traffic.
The impact of the Sheppard Subway Line: North York, Ontario, Canada Going from the public transit haven of Hong Kong to the more sprawling metropolis of Toronto may seem like a bit of a stretch. But, after doing some statistical exploration of census data, it was found that the construction of Toronto’s newest subway line had an impact on several neighbourhoods in accessing job opportunities. The subway is located in North York, a northern suburb of Toronto. The discussion of this case study adds rigour to the analysis because it draws
on census data to illustrate the connection between transit provision and helping the poor with their employment needs.
Using census data from 2001 and 2006, I explored the mode of transportation to work (also called journey to work) category used by the Canadian Census Analyzer and compared it with median income across the 6 census tracts. The 6 census tracts are located in North York, Ontario; CT 274.01, 300, 303, 304.01, 305.02 and 322. Three of the census tracts (300, 303 and 305.02) are located near the Sheppard subway line and are classified as Group A. The other three census tracts (274.01, 304.01 and 322) are located farther away from the Sheppard subway line but are still in the North York area and are classified as Group B. Figure 1. Map of Six Census Tracts in North York, Ontario
322 303 300
305.02 274.01 304.01
Sheppard Subway Line
Note, the distance of the Group A census tracts to the subway line is approximately between 500 meters and 1 kilometre.
I included three census tracts not located on the Sheppard subway line to compare the public transit data with the census tracts that are located closer to the line to see if there was a difference in public transit trips to work over the five-year period. Therefore, the construction of the Sheppard subway line is used as an intervention to show differences in public transit trips to work between the census tracts over time. I strategically used the 2001 and 2006 census years because the subway line was constructed in 2002. Moreover, I wanted to know if lower and higher median income census tracts alike used public transit as a mode of transport to work. Figure 2. Median Income and Public Transit
Census tract 303* 322 300* 305.02* 274.01 304.01 On the Sheppard Line Yes No Yes Yes No No Population Population 2001 2006 Median income ($) 2001 18,062 20,477 34,528 26,897 30140 19374 Public Median transit to income ($) work 2006 (2001) 345 18,386 19,202 585 37,246 245 29,515 315 33,368 18,529 625 740 Public transit to 2001 to 2006 work public transit (2006) change (%) 1,125 226 1,375 1650 1,345 625 915 135 573 326 0 24
5,571 7,661 2,917 4,627 5,106 4,887
5,562 7,616 8,360 7,670 4,925 4,768
*Group A: census tracts located near the subway line
Figure 3. Difference between 2001 and 2006 Transit Ridership and Median Income
Figure 3 indicates that notwithstanding income gains and losses between 2001 and 2006, public transit trips increased for all census tracts with the exception of CT 274. In 2001, Group A (303, 305.02 and 300), with different median income levels had fewer public transit trips to work than Group B. In 2006, Group A surpassed Group B in public transit trips to work. The exception is CT 303, which only passed CT 304.01 and CT 274.01 in trips but not CT 322. The subway line may explain this increase in public transit trips to work.
Figure 4. Breakdown of income by census tract
*Please note that the data collected only constitutes 20 percent of the census tract households. Statistics Canada randomly selects 20 percent of the households when it completes the census every 5 years.
Figure 4 illustrates the income composition of the census tracts. CT 305.02 has the highest number of people who earn over $60,000 per year. CT 303 and 300 have a comparable number of persons earning over $60,000. There is a large disparity in income between the other three tracts. In the $25,000-$29,000 income bracket (below the poverty line), the census tracts have similar numbers of people who earn this amount. In the middle income bracket ($40,000$45,000), there are insignificant differences between the census tracts. Overall, this graph is important because it shows the disparities in income among the selected census tracts. Therefore, it gives us a partial understanding of the diversity in income. Another intriguing statistic offered
by the census is the number of occupied dwellings by housing tenure. I used this to explore the number of renters that constitute the census tracts’ overall housing tenure. For group A (those close to the subway line), the number of renters for CT 300, 303 and 305.02 for 2001 was 510, 1,575 and 1,270 respectively. In 2006, the data is 1,445, 1,485, and 1,810 respectively. One can infer a few observations from this; the number of rental housing units constructed increased concomitantly with the new subway line from 2001 to 2006. For CT 303, the number of renters slightly declined from 1,575 to 1,485. Nonetheless, the other two tracts saw an increase in rental units which can suggest that both renters and private homeowners alike have benefitted from the construction of a new subway line. Further, a mixture of housing types have been constructed which demonstrates that the area is diverse economically.
The census data gives one an idea of how public transit as a mode of transportation to work increased for 5 out of the 6 selected census tracts selected. There was a significant increase in public transit trips to work for census tracts located near the Sheppard subway line (Group A). Despite income differences among the 5 census tracts, people started using public transit more between 2001 and 2006 – this could be due to the rising costs of gasoline, improvements in public transit service, shorter commuting times associated with public transit and more. Another assumption explaining the large increase in public transit trips in modal integration. The new subway line connects to the city’s main subway line (the Yonge Line) and bus routes. Such modal integration is crucial for increasing job accessibility; this will be further elaborated on in the Twin Cities’ case study. In brief, those on the lower income side of the spectrum may have used public transit to work more from 2001 to 2006 because of the shorter commuting times and access to low skilled jobs.
Using census profiles are useful for understanding the socio-economic characteristics of a neighbourhood. While the census breaks down income earnings in groups such as $25,000$29,000 and $60,000 and over, it does not directly tell us how many persons from these groups take public transit as mode of transportation. Further, the census only provides a limited amount of information on income such as median household income at the census block group level, which cannot be easily translated into information on the number of working poor in the area.
Therefore, a weakness or limitation in this analysis is that I cannot confidently determine who used public transit to work over the two census periods 2001 and 2006.
This case study of North York is useful for visualizing the effects of public transit provision on a neighbourhood in accessing jobs. A more detailed and sophisticated analysis could be done by drawing on more census tracts located within close proximity to the Sheppard line. While the analysis revealed that both poor and rich saw increases in public transit to work from 2001 to 2006, it nonetheless demonstrates how close proximity to a subway line can enhance accessibility to jobs. Last, while the construction of a subway line is capital and labour intensive, it can significantly reduce traffic congestion and provide more travel choice to an area’s residents. Not every jurisdiction has the capital to pay for such large infrastructure projects, but a close look at census data and follow-up surveys and interviews with a community’s residents, can demonstrate the positive impacts of such transit in job accessibility and in the neighbourhood’s economic appeal.
Further Analysis The findings in the census analysis are consistent with a paper by Cervero et al (2002). In their study of Alameda, California, they found that being within walking distance of a bus stop or a rail station was statistically significant. If someone did not own a car, one can interpret the following: having plentiful jobs that were reachable via transit and being able to walk to transit lines did incrementally increase the odds of securing employment at the .001 probability level (Cervero et al. 2002). Thus, despite the limitations of using census data, it is fair to argue that residents who are within walking distance to a subway line are not only more likely to use it for commuting purposes, but have overall better accessibility to jobs.
Bernick & Cervero (1997) explain how the primary transportation benefit of congregating housing, jobs, shops, and other activities around transit stations, of course, is that transit ridership is likely to increase as a consequence. This probably explains how transit ridership has been increasing for the Sheppard Subway line due to the construction of new homes, rental units, condos and the creation of retail and service sector outlets, thereby increasing employment opportunities.
As the public transit to work statistic increased from 2001 to 2006 for the selected census tracts, I assumed that the subway was the primary reason for this. Transit ridership data from the subway line is evidence for this trend, but it was not explored here. However, support is offered by Hanson & Giuliano (2004) about the theoretical expectations of rail transit provision. Rail transit systems generate changes in accessibility only in the immediate vicinity of the rail line itself. The construction of a rail transit line should improve accessibility along the rail line corridor and increase the relative advantage of the rail corridor compared to areas that are not served by the rail system. Activity location should shift toward the rail corridors and this shift should be reflected in increased land values (Hanson & Giuliano, 2004). Turning to the United States: Public transit provision vs. private vehicles As briefly mentioned, the spatial mismatch hypothesis significantly harms employment outcomes for the urban poor in many U.S. cities (Fan et al. 2010). Further, local imbalances between employment and residential sites influence people’s commuting patterns. Unlike Hong Kong, structural changes in the urban form have created the spatial mismatch hypothesis for American cities. Manufacturing industries in city centres has and continues to decline and are relocated to small towns or peripheral settlements while public transport services have not kept pace (Lau & Chiu, 2003). Worse yet, both mobility and accessibility are constrained for the poor and lower-income of American cities.
The case of the Twin Cities, and Alameda County, California, offer a contrast to Hong Kong in how transportation decisions are made to help address the employment needs of low-income citizens. While Hong Kong has not yet reached an optimal transportation system, as acknowledged by the need for some critical TCMs, it nonetheless has avoided the spatial mismatch hypothesis - something that has brought about a number of challenges for U.S. cities. This section will compare the transportation decision differences between light-rail provision in the Twin Cities of Minnesota and how differing transportation modes can act as a stimulus to welfare-to-work in Alameda, California. Both case studies are offered to explore how TCMs can contribute to improved accessibility and in helping achieve a better overall urban form. More importantly, despite widespread evidence that the automobile is the single best predictor of
getting people off welfare into employment (e.g., see Cervero et al. 2002 & Ong, 1996), this section will argue that the transportation disadvantaged would benefit more from increased transit service frequency, lower fares and fewer transfers.
Are private vehicles a better predictor of job accessibility? U.S. nationwide travel survey data show that less than 2 percent of all person-trips are made by public transit (Giuliano, 2005). Despite this abysmal statistic, the American Public Transit Association data for 1984 through 2000 shows that the supply of transit service increased 38 percent during that period; increases by mode were 25 percent for bus, 61 percent for commuter rail, 37 percent for heavy rail and 214 percent for light rail. Cervero et al. (2002) in their paper titled ―Transportation as a Stimulus of Welfare-to-Work‖ discuss how there is considerable disagreement as to which is more important—private mobility (i.e., ownership of and access to a car) or public mobility (i.e., availability of good public transportation services). Their paper uses a rich panel of data on welfare recipients in Alameda County, California. The article examines the importance of transportation policy variables in explaining the ability of some individuals to find gainful employment.
Using a multinomial logit model, their analysis shows how regional accessibility has a fairly modest bearing on employment outcomes. Their analysis did not find that spatial proximity, as expressed by our measures of regional accessibility, to be particularly important in explaining employment outcomes. Private mobility through the use of a private vehicle is more important than public mobility in getting inner-city residents completely off welfare and into gainful employment (Cervero et al. 2002). In Alameda County during the first half of the 1990s, car ownership significantly increased the odds of former welfare recipients’ securing jobs and relinquishing public assistance (Cervero et al. 2002). Once individuals had access to a car, the odds markedly increased that they found a job, regardless of whether they lived close to or far from employment opportunities (Cervero et al. 2002).
While this study only features Alameda County in the accessibility analysis, it is significant for planners and policymakers. Cervero et al. (2002) do not provide many cogent arguments as to why public transit in American cities is egregious. They do however; mention that while inner12
city residents generally receive more intensive transit services than those in the suburbs, this does not necessarily translate into good connectivity to suburban jobs (Cervero et al. 2002). Giuliano elaborates on this: ―as jobs have suburbanized (particularly low-wage jobs), central city workers have experienced a relative decline in job accessibility which has in turn led to both higher unemployment rates and longer commutes for those who are employed‖ (Giuliano, 2005, p. 64). Thus there is an important argument to be made about how public transit policy should play a bigger role in providing access to jobs for welfare recipients. Yet, with travel times two to three times as long as the same trip by car, even in areas where transit service is reasonably available, a significant role for transit seems questionable (Shen, 1998). Further exacerbating this conundrum is the fact that the poor pay relatively higher transit fares per unit of service than the nonpoor (Giuliano, 2005).
Attitudinal data from the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) also indicate that the poor are dissatisfied with public transit and generally do not enjoy using it. Giuliano explains how poor households own cars because they are the only reasonable option for basic household maintenance and income earning (Giuliano, 2005). Yet, poor households have to pay comparatively more for auto dependence by suffering the disruptions of frequent car breakdowns which not only subtract from household disposable income, but can also lead to missed medical appointments, lost hours at work and hence earnings (Giuliano, 2005). Thus it is difficult to determine the effectiveness of transit programs and services not only because of attitudes but also the lack of accepted performance measures, inability to control for intervening factors affecting employability, etc (Fan et al. 2010). As low-wage workers benefit from increased job access, many purchase automobiles, ending their transit-dependency and increasing the difficulty of assessing transit’s employment outcome impacts (Fan et al. 2010).
Based on the findings and analyses of Cervero et al (2002) and Giuliano (2005), does this mean that planners and policymakers should merit the subsidization of car ownership? Car subsidies offered to job-seeking welfare recipients can increase their accessibility to the job market, but this does not mean that planners should promote and embrace this strategy. The real issue is the poor public transit system in places like Alameda County and several other cities across the U.S.
Solutions lie in the TCMs that are actively promoted by scholars like Meyer and Miller (2001). To begin, it is indispensable to improve transit service quality. Land use policies and programs should be promoted that bring more opportunities to mobility and accessibility constrained populations. Further, planners must vehemently push for housing policies that would allow such populations to locate in more accessible areas. According to Giuliano, the poor make a large share of trips by nonmotorized modes: the walk-bike share is more than twice as large as the transit share according to the NHTS data (Giuliano, 2005).
A combination of TCMs and bundled/discounted transit fares must be explored by planners to improve job accessibility for the poor. Generating enough revenue to subsidize fares for the poor is only the stepping stone in this process. Empirical evidence from the economics literature demonstrates how being completely reliant on subsidies or simply over-subsidizing can lead to serious inefficiencies such as massive losses in revenue (Kahn, 2010). Subsidies overtime would slowly have to be removed as the poor access jobs and become less dependent on welfare assistance. From a policy perspective, local governments should work with companies, private firms and organizations which employ or could potentially employ poor citizens to establish a subsidization strategy that pays a higher subsidy for those who use transit over those who use their cars. This is meant to be a transportation equity policy consistent with one of the objectives of the U.S. Transportation Equity for the 21st Century Act: to increase the accessibility and mobility options available to people and for freight. In Curitiba, Brazil, most employers offer public transportation subsidies to workers, especially low-skilled and low-paid workers, making them the primary purchasers of transit tokens (US FTA, 1999).
The U.S. Department of Transportation recognizes that many new entry-level jobs are located in suburban areas, and low-income individuals have difficulty accessing these jobs from their inner city, urban, or rural neighbourhoods (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2011). In addition, many entry level-jobs require working late at night or on weekends when conventional transit services are either reduced or non-existent (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2011). Ultimately, planners should work together to promote the accessibility benefits of public transit; this way, they can access public transit funding (such as the Job Access and Reverse Commute Program). As the poor are more accustomed to travelling to work at off-peak hours, it is only
sensible for planners to reconfigure service to better support decentralized travel patterns and use other alternatives in places where fixed-route transit is not competitive (Pucher, 2004; Thompson & Matoff, 2003). One of the more promising and less ―pro-private transport‖ findings in Cervero et al (2002) was that those who were within walking distance of bus and rail stops were better able to reach job opportunities in East Bay suburbs that are well served by transit. This finding speaks to the importance of land use design and attention to neighbourhood design for nonmotorized travel. While this TCM is explored in more detail in the subsequent section, it is worth mentioning how proximity to transit in the form of walking distance, can be equally as critical as owning a private car for getting off welfare. This is however, contingent upon whether the public transit service is perceived to be comfortable and efficient. Thus, in locating and developing lower-income housing closer to transit services, it will be crucial to highlight the health benefits that can accrue to these lower income people who may be obese, and the overall aggregate time savings from taking public transit an avoiding the continuous maintenance upgrades of their vehicles.
Finally, with planners starting to address the need for reduced transit fares for the poor along with the other aforementioned strategies/policies, this could demonstrate the growing market of city-to suburb commuters (Cervero et al. 2002). Over time, this could generate enough new revenues to substantially upgrade the quality of reverse-commute transit services, which in turn would likely attract more commuters to transit (Cervero et al. 2002).
The impacts of light-rail on labour market accessibility A study by Fan et al. (2010) examines transit's role in promoting social equity by assessing the impacts of recent transit changes in the Twin Cities, including the opening of the new Hiawatha light rail line on job accessibility among workers of different wage categories. This study builds on the North York case study in showing how public transit provision in under-serviced areas can have some effect on taking people to and from work. Further, it also employed a before-andafter intervention to show the impact of the light-rail line. The authors provide empirical evidence to illustrate how low-income citizens in the Twin Cities region have low automobile ownership rates and that existing transit typically fails to accommodate low-income job seekers’
travel needs—many entry-level jobs require working nights or weekends when service is often reduced or nonexistent (Fan et al. 2010).
The Hiawatha light rail line connects downtown Minneapolis with numerous South Minneapolis
residential neighbourhoods, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and the Mall of America in suburban Bloomington (Fan et al. 2010). The authors find that by ―offering frequent, rapid, all-day services, premium transit services such as light rail and bus rapid transit hold special significance for low-wage workers and the transit dependent, as they are much more likely than others to use transit at off-peak times ― (Fan et al. 2010, p. 15).
A significant finding was how accessibility gains for the poor were found along bus routes that connect with light rail in addition to areas with hi frequency bus service and along the LRT. This points to how a fully integrated transit network (as opposed to a single transit corridor) can bring about the maximum benefits from major transit investments (Fan et al. 2010). The authors explain how the effective and efficient planning of feeder/distributor services will be critical for ensuring low-wage workers reap the greatest benefits possible from existing and future transit services.
Fan et al. (2010) found that low-wage workers and the transit dependent are much more likely to use transit at off-peak times. This finding is consistent with Giuliano (2005) who used census and national transit data to explain how low-income workers are less likely to travel to work during the a.m. peak which in aggregate contributes to lower travel speeds for this demographic group. The authors explain how accessibility should be an important performance measure for assessing transit investments.
Figure 5 on page 17 is a GIS map analysis illustrating how the LRT line improved job accessibility for low-wage workers. It is apparent that major low-wage employment accessibility gains occurred both along the Hiawatha LRT corridor and other Hi-frequency bus corridors. As the authors write: ―While most of downtown Minneapolis gains accessibility, the large gains along routes
connecting with LRT outside downtown are particularly striking. Many of these gains occur along cross-town and suburban local bus routes, with the effect of broadening accessibility gains beyond the LRT corridor. Other large gains occur along outer portions of local routes continuing downtown after their connections; these trips are often better served by a rail transfer than a one seat bus ride. Areas not adjacent to the LRT stations, bus stops with bus-LRT connections, or along Hi-Frequency bus routes mostly show either no change or a slight decline in accessibility to low-wage jobs‖ (Fan et al. 2010, p. 7).
Figure 5. Transit Accessibility to Low-wage jobs (Fan et al. 2010)
In returning to the hypothesis and objective of this paper, the Twin Cities LRT example highlights the importance of a TCM called ―alternative transit service improvements and expansion‖ (Meyer & Miller, 2001). As demonstrated from the Hong Kong example, a fullyintegrated transit network has the potential to not only offer multiplicity of transit choice, but improve overall accessibility to jobs. The City of Curitiba, Brazil is no different. The ―Master Plan‖ focused on having a transit oriented city. They implemented the Integrated Transit Net (RIT) an extensive bus rapid transit system. This network features five main types of buses, 21 main terminals, and many small bus tubes (Karis et al. 2006). This system provides citizens with choice and has reduced vehicular traffic in the city.
Alterative transit service improvements and expansion is a transportation control measure that planners need to better address through transportation decision-making processes. As this paper has explained, demand-side techniques like road pricing or congestion charges are critical for addressing transportation problems. But, in terms of accessibility for the poor, expanding transit networks and making them more integrated can really benefit a number of citizens including those that are more dependent on it for reaching jobs. These TCMs are also complementary; road pricing and congestion charges can help pay for transit expansion and modal-integration.
Planners must turn to successful examples like the Hiawatha LRT line and the transit networks of Hong Kong and Curitiba to make compelling proposals to receive funding from the federal government to really improve transit access for the poorest. It is understood that both Hong Kong and Curitiba have different urban forms and ideal population densities to justify adequate transit investment, but, it is clear that those who are transportation disadvantaged would take transit over private vehicles if the fares were at a reasonable cost, the schedules configured to optimize their journey to work and through an efficient and integrated network that reduces transfer times, and hence cuts down on overall travel time. The combination of these strategies, and their implementation into reality, is a responsibility that planners must take on. As Fan et al write: ―in planning future transit development in the Twin Cities region, it will be important to keep in mind that high quality transit service (both bus and rail) can be a powerful tool for improving the lives of the poor (Fan et al. 2010, p. 16).
Conclusion Using case studies from North America and abroad, this paper has shown how transportation investments and decisions have increased overall accessibility for lower income populations. ―Poor‖, ―lower-income‖ and ―transportation disadvantaged‖ were used interchangeably in this analysis but more importantly, to highlight the indispensable nature of public transit in improving job accessibility for these citizens. The paper began with an analysis of Hong Kong’s successful and robust public transit system (PTS). While both the poor and rich alike use the PTS, the city’s transportation planners are still not doing enough to utilize TCMs to address congestion and improve the mobility of traffic. While the PTS is relatively affordable for lower income groups, the government has a real opportunity to capitalize on road pricing and congestion charges and to utilize this revenue for both transit expansion and to promote and support neighbourhood design for nonmotorized travel such as walking and biking. These changes can indeed help the poor access jobs through healthy and environmentally friendly options like cycling and walking.
This paper used census data from Statistics Canada to analyze the impact of a subway line in North York, Ontario. The findings here were similar to the findings of Fan et al. (2010) on the impact of a new LRT line in the Twin Cities – that is, how a new transit service can improve job accessibility for the poor if well connected and integrated to existing transit services. Cervero’s paper added a good contrast to the analysis as his study, along with supporting studies (e.g. see Ong, 1996), show how car ownership is often a better predictor of getting people off welfare into securing employment. This finding might be indicative of a number of U.S. cities but as argued, a way to remedy this would be through the use of TCMs which can be funded by federal departments such as the U.S. Department of Transportation. This paper discussed TCMs such as: congestion pricing and toll programs, land use design and attention to neighbourhood design for nonmotorized travel and alternative transit service improvements and expansion as viable strategies that could drastically improve the transportation and employment needs of the poor. But, they must be advanced and supported by planners so that public policy decisions actually make a sizeable impact.
Finally, the only TCM that was not mentioned in this paper but merits further investigation is the use of public involvement and education programs. Planners have a vital role to play in involving the poor in transportation decisions. While it may be difficult to solicit their opinions or bring them to council meetings, we have to design more creative programs that educate low income citizens about the real benefits of using public transit over private vehicles. Thus, as planners begin to use some of the TCMs highlighted in this paper, educational programs must be simultaneously introduced. In sum, the twenty-first century belongs to public transit; given the daunting implications of peak oil and climate change, the era of automobility will slow down considerably. It is time for planners to embrace innovative techniques to address transportation equity and improve accessibility for residents in our cities. References Bernick, M, Cervero, R. (1997). Transit Villages in the 21st Century. New York: McGraw-Hill.
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