Relieving traffic jams is the best way to improve access to employment »Publications» Washington Policy Center


A recent presentation by INRIX to the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) showed the impact that reducing congestion could have by giving people better access to more jobs at just a half- Seattle time.

Bob Pishue and Ted Trepanier, on behalf of INRIX, presented the latest The data from the 14th edition INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, which classifies and analyzes traffic jams in 1,000 cities around the world. INRIX examines both commuting behaviors and trends, including the impact of COVID-19 on drivers and cities.

In 2020, according to the report, Seattle ranked 15the most congested city in the United States and 130e most congested city in the world. People lost 25 hours in traffic jams, or about $ 365 per driver. This is a 67% reduction from 2019. Data also showed a reduction in kilometers traveled by vehicles in 2020 – as well as a fairly rapid recovery in 2021 to pre-pandemic levels.

Baruch Feigenbaum of the Reason Foundation, in a to study on increasing mobility in Southern California, noted that traffic congestion is significant because it affects the size of the labor market. He says, “Most people won’t spend more than a certain amount of time each day getting to work. As congestion increases, the number of kilometers they can travel in that time frame decreases. He goes on to say that in a large metropolitan area, “economic productivity depends on matching qualified employees with employers who can make the most of their capabilities.” This productivity is achieved when the size of the labor market increases. Remy Prud-homme and Chang-Woon Lee studied the relationship between commuting times and labor productivity in French cities and found that “when the effective size of the labor market increases by 10%, productivity (and therefore economic output) increased by 1.8%.

The value of reducing congestion to a job market was well illustrated by an INRIX driving time visualization for Seattle that showed the distance people could travel from downtown to the outdoors in a half hour to 8:30 am – in 2019 (blue) compared to 2020 (Orange).

The data shows what access to employment could look like with significant reductions in traffic jams, especially during the evening rush hours which have largely returned to pre-pandemic levels. This would have the dual benefit of giving people more employment options and giving employers a larger pool of employees to choose from in the workforce.

Pishue calculated the difference between workers who can get to downtown Seattle in 30 minutes in 2019 versus a less crowded 2020. According to its findings, at 8:30 am, more than 507,000 workers were within 30 minutes of downtown in 2019, up from 802,000 in 2020. This represents an increase of 58%.

“Reducing traffic congestion is one of the best ways to improve access to vital goods and services, expand a company’s customer base, and attract employees with a smoother commute,” said Pishue. “With increasing competition for employees, reducing congestion dramatically increases the potential labor pool for employers. “

Wendell Cox, a national transportation expert and urban policy analyst, often writes about the importance of giving people access to the most jobs within half an hour to reduce poverty and increase opportunities for wealth. In his study for WPC, he recommends orienting policy towards reducing commuting times to employment, especially since the overwhelming share of population and increasing employment in Puget Sound are outside the city of Seattle. Although Seattle has seen significant growth since 2010, over 85% of jobs are located outside of the downtown area.

Transit, Cox noted, serves a niche market – with 48% of trips to downtown Seattle made by public transit and a 9.3% share to the rest of the city. Only 3.5% of work travel destinations in the rest of Puget Sound are reached by public transit. In other words, most people outside of the city center drive to work.

Cox’s goal is to reduce poverty by giving people competitive and rapid access to employment. In most cases, the data shows that the automobile is the best way to achieve this. The University of Minnesota “Access across AmericaShowed that in 2019, residents of U.S. metropolitan areas could access 47% of jobs by car in 30 minutes, compared to 8% of jobs in public transit. Even in the New York metropolitan area, drivers can access 13% of jobs in 30 minutes by car, compared to just 14% of jobs in 60 minutes by public transit.

As policymakers reflect on transportation planning, equity issues, and public funding of transportation projects during the COVID recovery, they should consider access to employment as a key measure of performance and longevity. ‘equity. Improving access to employment will require accommodating rather than limiting car travel. This will require policies that will make it easier for low-income people to own a car, rather than remaining dependent on public transport. It will also require increased road capacity and reduced congestion to enable reliable and safe daily journeys; encourage teleworking where it makes sense; and the promotion of technological innovation and modernization in public transport agencies so that public transport is more efficient and responsive to users.

Needless to say, transport solutions are usually a mixture of effort. However, as research by Cox and INRIX indicates, increasing the number of jobs people can reach in half an hour by car is an important starting point and should be a priority if authorities care. lift people out of poverty and improve the quality of life. .

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