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Comparing transit in 10 Cleveland communities

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/20/16 @ 3:00pm  |  Posted in Transit

85.3% of all jobs in Cuyahoga County are located within a half-mile of a transit stop. That is well above the U.S. average of 61.1%. And yet, only 5.17% of commuters in the county use transit. Probably due to factors like the frequency—or how often the bus comes near to their home and their work—and what can be reached with transit.

<br />The AllTransit tool from Center for Neighborhood Technology displays many things about transit access - like this map showing jobs near transit in Cuyahoga County. <br /><br /><br /><br />

Transit connectivity is the latest from the Center for Neighborhood Technology, who previously mapped the combined housing and transportation costs (H+T) for every Census Block in America.

With its new online tool, AllTransit, Chicago based non-profit CNT has added to the nation’s understanding of the importance of transit service relative to population. It is important when comparing places to live, especially for those who prefer to take transit to work.

In this alternative to rating the suburbs, transit frequency matters. Frequency is a function of many things, chief among them how a community is designed. Long blocks and fewer houses per acre, as is the dominant development pattern in the U.S., makes us a suburban nation. We score really low on transit connectivity—7 out of 100—as a whole.

Transit connectivity for cities is typically higher. Cleveland has a transit connectivity score of 22. In a 2013 ranking of the commuting habits of the 60 largest cities in the U.S., Cleveland ranked a not-too-shabby 16th for mode share (transit, walking and biking to work).

Northeast Ohio can also boast of suburbs that were built around transit systems and have high relative mode share. Lakewood, East Cleveland, Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights which leads the region with a 28 Transit Connectivity score. Shaker’s four times the national average says a lot about designing a community that intends to maximize transit.

Density, income as well as availability and quality of service are factors in how many people take transit. In Shaker, for example, transit is supported by a fair amount of density (which Shaker has throughout much of the Blue Line corridor). Shaker has the region’s highest access to jobs—200,355—by transit.

There appears to be a trickle down effect of transit-oriented design. Look at how the suburbs in Northeast Ohio compare on their costs for transportation. The ones with the high connectivity and access to jobs have the lowest cost for transportation. In the ratings, there are some important “sustainability” metrics like the personal costs of driving alone for great distances (% of transportation each household spends). If transportation exceeds 15-20% of household budget, it is above the sustainable threshold.

When transit connectivity lowers household cost it lends credence and priority to building around transit. For East Cleveland. For Lakewood. For parts of Cuyahoga County. What the region needs to wrestle with first is a definition, or metric, for “good” transit access and connectivity.

Ultimately, the cost to communities is reflected in the jobs on both sides of the transit trip, especially with young Americans driving less and taking transit more. In the future, they might just forget the suburbs ratings game and choose a location based on something like transit connectivity.

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2 years ago

In my opinion, I think most see Cuyahoga County's 1-cent from the sales tax as the county subsidy. I think our best hope is to get the federal government to reform how it measures success in transportation, which it is considering with its rule making now. FHWA is moving, but not fast enough in many minds, to place a new metric on transportation. Will we reward shorter not longer trips, or how people are served by a project, for instance. A bus would score much higher than a car because of its capacity to serve more people. See this excellent post that describes it in greater detail: t4america.org/2016/04/12/will-pending-federal-transportation-rule-double-down-on-outdated-view-of-congestion/

The Obama Administration sees the funding landscape and recognizes a paradigm shift is needed. The regional transportation agency, NOACA, is also on the cusp of this recognition. I think we should spend our time supporting their efforts to shift toward more transportation choice in their upcoming Long Range Plan.

Roldo Bartimole
2 years ago

Good info. thanks.
Now let's find a way to keep the rates down. County subsidy?

Nevin Mayer
2 years ago

I enjoy using RTA going to work almost every day. Frequency is definitely a factor that discourages use of public transit, especially on weekends.

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