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To Improve Transit Share Focus On Jobs

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Transportation economist Gary Barnes discusses the problems faced when planners and policymakers attempt to address traffic congrestion by moving more trips to transit. His November 14, 2003,  paper, "Using Land Use Policy to Address Congestion: The Importance of Destination in Determining Transit Share," argues that to effectively move those vehicle trips to transit policymakers must focus on increasing the size of downtowns, and on developing downtown-like centers in suburban locations. But unlike most research and policy discussion on this topic, Barnes does not advocate focusing on housing density around transit centers as the first goal.

"The conclusion of this paper," Barnes writers, "is that the development and expansion of very large, high-density job centers is the best tool available for most cities to achieve substantial increases in transit use."

As Barnes explains, prompting people to switch from their personal vehicles to transit requires either improved transit service or higher costs for driving such as parking costs. But increasing parking fees is unlikely before better transit service; better transit service is not feasible in the absense of a sufficiently large market.

The way to get around this, Barnes concludes, is to focus on the work end of the daily trips.

"A gradual transition of a relatively small amount of office space from isolated or low-density settings into a few large dense centers could lead to sizable increases in regional transit use in a relatively short time," Barnes writes. "Such focus on the work end of the trip, by making increased transit service more viable, could also help to increase non-auto access to retail and other non-work opportunities. And it may be the only tool available for inducing significant transit use from the vast suburban areas of most cities that are already developed at low densities, and which will probably stay that way forever."

Barnes report has been added to the Best Practices.

Using Land Use Policy to Address Congestion: The Importance of Destination in Determining Transit Share