New York's transit system is the lifeblood of America's largest metropolis. Comprising subways, commuter trains, and ferries, it's famously vast, and millions of commuters rely upon it every day.
Salt Lake City's is . . . not. Utah's capital features light rail, bus rapid transit, and even a commuter rail line. But these transportation options -- many of which are less than a decade old -- are hardly integral parts of the city's identity.
But not so fast, spoiled New Yorkers. Salt Lake's relatively modest transit network actually outperforms its New York counterpart on one essential measure: providing access to a high percentage of the region's jobs. That's according to data in the Access Across America report, the latest by transportation planner David Levinson and the Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota.
The study, which ranked urban areas by their transit systems' ability to provide access to jobs, revealed some surprising truths about the impact of mass transit on urban mobility.
1. Percentages tell a different story.
Levinson and his colleagues ranked 46 of the largest American Metropolitan Statistical Areas (a definition used by the Census Bureau) by the number of transit-accessible jobs in the urban area in six different increments of time -- from ten minutes to one hour. The calculations were "worker-weighted," meaning they accounted for the actual residential patterns of each city.
In terms of raw numbers, New York was the victor in every time segment, with 1.2 million jobs reachable in one hour. In fact, there was an incredible amount of consistency among a core group of cities -- New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., all finished in the top five every time. That should come as little surprise, given that those four cities are among the densest and most transit-reliant in the country. Conversely, Birmingham, Ala., and Riverside, Calif., were in or near the bottom of the list every time.
Ranked by percentage of jobs accessible through transit, however, the list tells a different story. New York still does pretty well (ranking sixth), and San Francisco still makes an appearance at number three, but Salt Lake City takes first, with San Jose, Milwaukee, and Denver rounding out the top five. (Sorry, Riverside -- you're still last.)
Salt Lake's first-place finish is well deserved -- a one-hour commute on mass transit puts Salt Lakers in reach of an incredible 25.42 percent of the region's jobs. New York? Just below 15 percent.