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TOD 202: Transit & Employment

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Transit & Employment: Increasing Transit's Share of the Commute Trip

Why This BOOk?

To Inform StrategiesThat Can Increase Transit’s Share of the Commute Trip

The daily commute is a fact of life for 90 million Americans. While some commuters value the “down time” this trip provides them, others experience financial, emotional and physical stress. 

The societal cost is also significant – the freedom and flexibility provided by the automobile exacts a high price in terms of environmental and climate impacts, infrastructure costs, accidents and injuries, and dependence on foreign oil, and rising gas prices make commuting by car a heavy personal financial burden. Moreover, it has proven to be impossible to reduce traffic congestion by keeping up with the ever-expanding demand for road capacity – the amount of driving, measured in vehicle miles traveled or VMT, has increased three times faster than the U.S. population since 1980, and is expected to increase another 59 percent by 2030, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Transit and transit-oriented development is an essential part of the solution to both the traffic and climate change problems, and can address the personal and societal costs of our dependence on the automobile. 

A great deal of practical and academic activity in the past several decades has been devoted to understanding how land use can support robust transit ridership and realize all of transit’s potential benefits. But to date most of the research and discussion has been about residential and retail development at stations. There has been less consideration about where the people who live and shop in transit-oriented neighborhoods will work, and how they will get to work.

Clearly, in order for TOD to deliver the most riders for transit, the discussion about TOD needs to be more comprehensive, extending to considerations of the work trip, its origins (where workers live) and its destinations (where they work). The goal is an increasingly efficient and complementary land use pattern that provides more mobility and accessibility and responds to consumer demand for fast, convenient public transportation.

The good news is that the market is responding to consumer demand for more housing and transportation choices. American households are becoming older and smaller and more ethnically diverse, and whereas the family used to be the dominant demographic group, singles are becoming the new majority. These demographic changes have resulted in more demand for in-town living, 24/7 neighborhoods, transit and TOD. This has opened a window of opportunity for communities to make the land use patterns associated with employment centers as transit friendly as residential and mixed-use TOD.