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Louisville Ranks 36th In Accessibility to Jobs by Public Transit, Study Says

Louisville workers using public transit have "better than average" accessibility to their jobs compared to other large metropolitan areas, according to a researcher involved in a recent study.The study, Access Across America: Transit 2014, was conducted at the University of Minnesota and is part of a series examining how effective public transit systems in the U.S. are at creating accessible cities. The country's 46 largest metropolitan areas by population were ranked by their accessibility to jobs via public transit in the study.Louisville ranked 36th.That may not seem great, but it's good news when compared to the number of employed workers in Louisville, said Andrew Owen, the director of the accessibility observatory at the University of Minnesota.“Compared to other cities, Louisville is doing a better than average job in providing transit connections to the jobs that it has,” Owen said.Jobs are the most significant non-home destination for people, according to the study, and just about 5 percent of people in the U.S. commute via public transit.Louisville has just more than 576,000 employed workers—giving the city a ranking of 42nd nationwide.  Abut 47,000 people ride on a TARC bus daily, according to statisticsprovided by the Transit Authority of River City.That’s equal  to about 8 percent of workers potentially taking advantage of TARC daily—just more than the national average. For comparison, Atlanta ranked ninth in employment but 3oth in transit accessibility, Owen said.“To me, that indicates that relative to the number of jobs it has, it does a poor job of providing connections to them by transit,” he said.The researchers used a weighted accessibility score to establish the rankings, Owen said.So, what is a weighted accessibility score?Since not all workers have equal commute times, not all commutes can be scored the same, Owen said.“Everything takes a different amount of time to reach,” he said.The researchers measured accessibility—how long it takes to get from start point to end point—in six different thresholds: 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 50 minutes and 60 minutes.Researchers then gave a score to jobs in each threshold.  Jobs in the 10-minute threshold got a higher score than those in 60 minute threshold, for example.  The scores were then averaged together and a weighted accessibility ranking was produced, Owen said.Here is a look at the number of jobs accessible by travel time threshold.

Here is a look at how Louisville stacks up to other cities in individual thresholds.

And here is a heat map detailing how many jobs are accessible within 30 minutes via public transit.

Owen said the analysis “really drives home” the fact that transportation and land use function as a single system.“The message for planners and leaders is to think about these things together,” he added.He said decisions concerning transportation that are made without considering land use are “one-sided and probably not the best decisions.”“People want to be able to reach the things that matter,” said Owen.Owen said roads and buses should not be built “for fun.”  Rather, he said, they should be built for people to “get somewhere they need to be.”

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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