Map Monday: Transit-to-Jobs Accessibility for Twin Cities Case Study Areas

Here’s a complicated but important map from the recent University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies report on the relationship of jobs to transit in the Twin Cities metro area. This study was reported on in a few places, including Citylab, but I thought I’d zoom in on one of their analyses here.

First, check out this map:


It shows the “accessibility” of jobs to people who use transit for the whole Twin Cities area, as well as identifying a half dozen case areas which were chosen according the following matrix:


As is often reported, but less often understood, the Twin Cities is highly segregated place, which is one reason why these six case study areas provide such a good slice of the regional geography.

The report explains the map thus, reflecting the not-surprising fact that the job vacancies in central city areas are generally accessible while those in the suburbs are not:

Figure 6-10 shows current accessibility to job vacancies by transit overlaid by the case study areas, as well as the regional transit system. Accessibilities differ widely between cases: North Minneapolis and Phillips have generally good accessibility. Golden Triangle, the Mall of America area and the Gateway Corridor have much more modest accessibility, while Brooklyn Park and Shakopee have little or none.

For example, the report breaks down how these six areas differ in a number of different characteristics.

Here’s income:


And here’s the race breakdown:


There are also a bunch of other data charted in the study, including the percentage of single mothers, educational background, and other things. At any rate, these areas illustrate how the unequal geography of the Twin Cities works to create different relationships between jobs and transportation.

Here’s the conclusion from this section of the report (they also did interviews with transit planners and workforce development professionals, which were used in the analyses to identify patterns):

Looking across all seven case studies, both transit planners and workforce development professionals lend support to the basic premise of this project: while successful coordination of transit and workforce development is consistently acknowledged as beneficial, there is a strong perception of need for more such coordination. This appears to be particularly true in suburban areas where transit has traditionally had less relevance to workforce development than in urban areas with at least high levels of traditional bus service. There is also a broad realization that workforce development efforts cannot simply give clients a bus card and send them on their way in suburban areas—even assuming future transit improvements. Urban areas suffer less from this issue on the home end of disadvantaged workers‘ commutes, but connecting urban workers with suburban jobs requires addressing the same issues at the workplace end, especially in terms of the first mile-last mile problem.

To me, the takeaway is that the lack of walkable land use in the suburbs poses a fundamental problem for transit planning and erasing inequality in the Twin Cities. It suggests to me that somehow we need to be more aggressive regionally about incentivizing employers (with both carrots and sticks) to better address the “last mile” situations that keep transit from being workable in these communities.

The report offers a lot more detail on this, and you can read the whole thing here.

PS. There’s even a video!

6 thoughts on “Map Monday: Transit-to-Jobs Accessibility for Twin Cities Case Study Areas

  1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

    Thanks for doing a write-up on this, Bill. This report is really great. It would have been great if they could have compared how many job vacancies people could reach by car for those different tracts and case study areas to show 1) how much we privileged people who can afford cars, and 2) how much we’d close that gap with these transit investments.

  2. Sam Jensen

    One thing that strikes me looking at this is how little usefulness transit has for accessing jobs in the majority of St Paul. Almost all neighborhoods of Minneapolis have over 4000 jobs accessible in under 45min and almost all of St Paul has less than 4000, and over half of the city less than half that. The planned transitway projects are barely going to improve accessibility in St Paul. While part of that is the huge concentrations of jobs in downtown Minneapolis and the West Metro, I think this it shows a need for way more transit investment in St Paul and Ramsey County than currently planned.

  3. John L

    Left mostly unspoken, in the research and in the commentary, is how we got to this point. Major (and minor) employers have been locating in the suburbs for years with little attention paid by them or by policy makers to non-auto access for employees. Certainly those past decisions are water under the bridge and we need to meet job seekers, and jobs, where they are and connect them as best we can. But I would prefer to see much more attention paid to the last recommendation of the study — “Pursue transit-oriented economic development to direct future job growth to transit-friendly areas.” That is the real solution to this issue, but there seems to be little appetite to address this issue in any meaningful way.

    As has been covered before, the fundamental transit network in the Twin Cities has not changed much in the past 75 years. So before we continue to engage in the debate of which area transit serves the worst, I’d suggest we remember that the transit network was there first. If transit doesn’t serve your destination, maybe the problem isn’t the design of the transit network, maybe it’s the location of the destination.

    1. Tim

      Locating a company near existing transit is one thing for companies with smaller and simpler space needs, but it becomes a lot more challenging for distribution, manufacturing, or other types of companies that need more space to function. A lot of companies currently in Shakopee, for example, probably wouldn’t be able to locate in Minneapolis or St. Paul due to a lack of available space (and the fact that industrial space keeps being redeveloped as other things doesn’t help).

  4. Paul Strebe

    Even if transit were added or improved out to fringe areas like Shakopee, how many people would want to make that commute from North Minneapolis or Brooklyn Park? What are the barriers to building more affordable housing out in areas like Shakopee? If employers are really experiencing a lack workers, at what point should they be helping facilitate affordable housing development — particularly if they were lured out there by tax breaks?

  5. Joe

    EVEN where transit is available Metro Transit schedules is inconvenient for riders working non-traditional hours.Their schedules does not coincide with start and end times for workers.
    # 4 bus is on 7 nursing homes ,
    #68 on 6 nursing homes,this bus dont even start early on weekends.
    ,#23 on 5 homes yet checking the schedules are very inconvenient.

Comments are closed.