Map Monday: Twin Cities Jobs by Transit Accessibility

Here’s a map from a just-released report called “Access Across America”, coming out of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies. It has a series of heat maps showing the amount of jobs connected to transit in a huge list of metros around the United States.

Here’s the one for Minneapolis:


The key takeaway isn’t necessarily about the Twin Cities’ #13th place ranking, but rather the decline in accessibility. In the past year, the Twin Cities metro has actually lost ground when it comes to having jobs accessible by transit.

You might remember the recent analysis (from last week’s Map Monday) referring to the Star Tribune article on the growth in suburban and exurban entry-level jobs. Well that trend, combined with the lack of meaningful growth in the Twin Cities transit system, is a big part of why the MSP area is losing ground compared to the rest of the country’s largest cities.

Here’s the quote from the press release, with the perspective of business leaders like the Chamber of Commerce on this trend:

Regional business leaders said the negative trend seen in Minneapolis-St. Paul is extremely concerning, especially as the region competes to keep and attract employers.

“Last year the legislature proposed a 40% cut to existing Metro Transit bus service. Fortunately, we were able to work with the legislature and Governor to prevent those dramatic cuts, but our region’s transit service continues to be underfunded, which will have a significantly negative impact on our economy,” said Jonathan Weinhagen, President and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce. “We are not only behind competing regions, we are actually going in the wrong direction when it comes to providing access to jobs via transit. Our elected leaders need to step up and recognize how important a strong and growing transit system is to our region’s future economic success. We need to reverse the negative trend and start to make real, sustained investments in the transportation and transit system in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro region.”

The findings followed similar findings by a regional economic development group led by Greater MSP, which found that the Twin Cities region was getting worse in the number of jobs reachable by transit, both absolutely and compared to our peer regions.

By the way, if you’re wondering, as I was, about whether the Twin Cities Metro Area’s bi-polar nature might hurt it in the geographic jobs analysis, there’s a hefty methodology section attached to the report that explains how they calculated the time-thresholds.

Tl,dr; they figured out a nifty system, dividing up metros into zones and then using a time / transit / walking radius based on that.

Here’s the Twin Cities with “centroid” dots:

And then an example of a zone and a radius built around that:

Disappointing conclusions aside, the data is pretty cool!

10 thoughts on “Map Monday: Twin Cities Jobs by Transit Accessibility

  1. David MarkleDavid Markle

    Once again I’ll nag that this indicates our growing need for a skeletal high speed metro transit network.

  2. Scott

    Very interesting… Curious to know how regional planning/ the Met Council fits into this. Obviously, they run the transit system and work with metro communities to plan for growth including planning for job centers. So, why aren’t these things lining up better? Is it lack of transit funding, poor planning, the continued sprawl into other counties, and/or something else that is moving this trend in a bad direction? Will the Green and Blue line extensions help to reverse the trend?

    1. Monte Castleman

      Well, the Green Line will go right through the Golden Triangle and the Blue Line will end in a cornfield across from Target North. But this is probably a drop in the bucket.

      You have opt-out transit providers that are more focused on getting their own people to downtown on express coach buses equipped with wifi, but what’s going on is a lot of employers want cheap land where they can build their own building rather than leasing expensive office space downtown or in say a suburban concentration of high rises. And I get that a lot of millennials want to work downtown, but a lot of the ones I know don’t too, a preference that gets more dramatic as you get into GenX and older.

      Then you have Amazon. There’s no place in the world this could fit but way out in a cornfield someplace. Instead of one small warehouse shipping light bulbs and another shipping kitchen faucets, we have one facility shipping *everything*. It’s not like Amazon knew they wouldn’t be in a position of having to attract workers and figure out how to get them there, but would the Amazon warehouse fit behind the Wedge co-op? Would the city streets handle the amount of semi-trucks, employees, and package deliverers? It could probably fit behind Harbor Freight in Burnsville and be right on a freeway exit and the Red Line, but Burnsville has highbrow aspirations to extend Heart of the City style cuteness north to the river (once the gravel mining ends and the toxic waste dump is dealt with).

      1. Cobo R

        The biggest benefit to downtown is that its central and a lot of people can get there easily, and there is a massive labor pool. Suburban office complexes are only nice if you live near them, or if you have a reverse commute.

        For example when Target moved its tech employees to Brooklyn Park they defiantly lost me as a potential employee… An easy express bus to downtown would be just fine as a commute, I could read, relax, etc. And being downtown would afford other opportunities in restaurants, networking, ability to catch an evening twins game, etc. A long arduous slog through traffic to a remote business park on the other side of the metro is unappealing to say the least.

        1. paul mehra

          MEtro Transit /METC need to start with the bus schedules for people working non-traditional hours in the cetral cities nearby suburbs first
          .I always works odd hours in Health Care when I get off work the bus either comes too early or very late making the 45mins commute to 90mins just between downtown and South Mpls .I have many alternative but they are not receptive to riders comments and their inconvenience did very little to make minor schedule adjustments. .
          I did a study of some of the buslines with several nursing homes along it routing. For the 3 shifts there are no good schedules to match the starting and ending of the 3 work shifts
          #4 has 4 nursing homes S Mpls ,NE has 3
          #23 has 4
          # 74 has 3
          #68 has 1 plus 4 nearby of the buses don’t run early on weekends for day shift. plus N side 2 .
          #3 has 2
          If they cant offer convenient schedules for the health care workers within the 2 central cities how can they provide services in suburbs which are scattered with low densities.

      2. Jeb RachJeb Rach

        I’ll admit, I’m not familiar with how many of the warehouses in the Midway area are full vs. empty, but it seems like there’s plenty of, if smaller in size, Amazon-style warehouses along the 280 corridor. If there’s a chunk of them that are empty, the infrastructure there could almost certainly support it.

        You’re never going to get it to fit downtown, but you could potentially fit in old industrial areas in some of the neighborhoods.

  3. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs

    It’s lack of funding, combined with sprawl. Yes, the Green Line, Blue Line and various BRT lines will help to reverse the trend. They’ll provide faster service to more areas. Densification of the central cities and inner ring suburbs also helps.

  4. Theo Kozel

    It seems counterintuitive that while our density increased relative to most other U.S. cities over the past 6 years –

    job availability via transit has decreased. I’d think the one would correlate with the other, unless a contrary and stronger dynamic is at play. I think the bit regarding suburban and exurban job growth may be more significant than it at first appears. That would explain how density could increase whereas job/transit accessibility could at the same time decrease.

    Hypothetically, a metric that might support this would be a greater ratio of residential (as opposed to commercial or industrial) growth in Minneapolis in comparison with other U.S. cities. In other words, the residential piece of the population pie may have grown greater in Minneapolis than many (any?) other U.S. city.

    Another thought: it seems to me that transit develops in bursts, rather than at a steady clip. While we’re building the Blue Line, for example, our numbers look much better. We may not be doing so well this year because there is not at this point in time a lot of active shovels-in-the-ground transit development. There are, however, multiple significant projects in the planning so even if our numbers aren’t great now it seems to me that they will get better in the not-so-far-future.

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