Public Policy Forum Blog

Poor accessibility to jobs by transit in metro Milwaukee and nationally

Last December, the Public Policy Forum released a report called Getting to Work, which examined challenges and opportunities for improving public transit access to job centers throughout the Milwaukee metropolitan area. Our analysis showed that many job centers in the region are not served by public transit at all, while many others can only be accessed by central city residents via lengthy bus commutes of more than 60 minutes each way.

We were surprised, therefore, by the findings of a new study by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies, which ranks the Milwaukee area 12th among the 46 largest U.S. metro areas with regard to accessibility to jobs by transit. The study looks at the length of time it takes residents throughout a region to access jobs within 60 km (roughly 37 miles) of their homes by transit, and then uses a weighted formula to rank that region’s overall accessibility. Jobs that are accessible to larger numbers of workers in shorter amounts of time are given more weight than those that tend to require longer commutes from more residents.

Although the Milwaukee area ranks relatively high in comparison with other U.S. metro areas based on this analysis, the study also finds that only 17.4% of the region’s jobs are accessible by transit within 60 minutes. Perhaps the bigger takeaway from the study is that poor transit access to jobs is a very common problem across the country.

We are currently beginning a follow-up to Getting to Work, which will examine options for improving bus service and speed in the region. Look for a report on that topic toward the end of the year.

Joe Peterangelo