(This article is cross-posted at the Center for Transportation Studies’ Conversations blog)
Sunday, June 14, marks the one-year anniversary of the start of service on the Twin Cities’ Green Line LRT route. At the Accessibility Observatory, we like to celebrate transportation anniversaries the way we wish everyone would: with a detailed evaluation of access to destinations.
Our recent report, “Green Line LRT: Job Accessibility Impacts in Minneapolis and Saint Paul,” takes a look at how the Green Line has impacted residents’ ability to reach jobs by transit. Using the same methodology employed in our “Access Across America” research program, it measures how many jobs can be reached by transit from every block in the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN during the 7–9 AM period. This high-resolution approach lets us take a very detailed look at how access to jobs has changed over the past year for individual blocks.
Overall, we find that residents of Saint Paul experience the greatest increase in access to jobs: a year after the opening of the Green Line, workers in Saint Paul can, on average, reach over 2,000 more jobs than they could previously — a 5.3% increase. Because this city-wide average includes areas that are far from the Green Line, it can obscure the fact that in locations near Green Line stations and connecting transit routes, accessibility often increased by over 50%, and in a few locations more than doubled.
The launch of the Green Line itself isn’t the only change in the regional transit system over the past year. As part of the Green Line planning process, Metro Transit undertook the “Central Corridor Transit Service Study” which identified ways that the regional bus network could be modified and extended to best support and coordinate with the new Green Line. Other changes were made to meet service and coverage goals unrelated to the Green Line. By creating a “hybrid” transit schedule, isolating the bus network changes from the Green Line itself, we were able to evaluate how much “extra” accessibility impact these bus route changes had, above and beyond that directly related to the Green Line.
We found that overall, the accessibility impact of bus route changes was greater than that of the Green Line itself, and spread over a larger area. These findings suggest that had the Green Line been implemented without any supporting changes to the regional bus network, accessibility benefits would have been lower, and limited to areas near the new rail stations. While they are easily overlooked in the context of a $957 million light rail project, smart planning and investments in everyday bus routes can be critical in extracting the maximum benefit from new rail lines. Just as highways are components of much larger networks of arterial and connecting roads, rail lines function best as part of a coordinated, comprehensive transit system planned with a focus on providing access to destinations.
For additional details and maps of accessibility changes, please visit our report web page and read “Green Line LRT: Job Accessibility Impacts in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.”