Late last week, with great fanfare, the Brookings Institution released a new report on “Transit and Jobs in America.” Too many people, the report found, live too far away from a transit stop, so it urged more investments in transit so that more people can use it.
Data in the report itself discredited this logic. As noted on page 21, the metro areas with the highest “combined ranking of access to transit and employment” are:
2. San Jose
3. Salt Lake City
8. Las Vegas
The trouble is, with the exception of Honolulu, none of these areas have particularly high rates of transit ridership by any measure. The table below compares most of these urban areas with a few areas with notably high transit usage. (Salt Lake and Provo are combined because one transit agency serves both areas.)
Urban Area Transit Usage
|Urban Area||Transit Share||Per Capita Transit Trips||Brookings Rank|
There isn’t much correlation between Brookings’ rankings and actual transit performance. This suggests that Brookings put a lot of effort into a study whose results are meaningless except to show that any policies based on Brookings’ rankings will fail to attract many new transit riders.
The Antiplanner’s faithful ally, Tom Rubin, noticed this right away. Rubin rates San Jose’s transit system the worst in the nation. When informed that Brookings ranked San Jose the second-best in the country, Rubin asked, “How many did they rank? Two?”
“This isn’t about how well the system performs, but what they are capable of,” explains one of the Brookings authors. Before Brookings publishes another report like this one, it should focus on actual performance and ask why some urban areas, such as Honolulu and San Francisco, perform better than others. Then, perhaps, its recommendations might actually be useful.