Dependable Transportation

Comparing craigslist “help wanted” listings for jobs that require private transportation. New York City, which spends $850 per person annually on public transportation operations, has six listings. St. Louis has 53 listings; they spend $104 per person on public transportation.

The Brookings Institute published a report on transit access to employers, which notes that moving jobs to office and industrial parks out in the suburbs — aka “job sprawl” — can limit the pool of people who can make it to the job location via public transportation.

Tanya at Streetsblog DC wonders if transit providers should follow the jobs and extend service to the suburbs. I work in Santa Clara, California at what was once an insane asylum way out in the country. Our county transportation agency, VTA, has extended bus and light rail service out to the suburbs.

The report points out that the U.S. Northeast and the West have better connected jobs centers than the Midwest and the South. Just for grins, I looked at Craigslist job listings for various areas, searching for the phrase “Dependable Transportation.” For those who’ve never been car-free while looking for service jobs, that’s code for “you must have your own car.”

Listing counts are as of the afternoon of Wednesday, July 11 2012. Populations are for the metropolitan area and come from Wikipedia.

I’d like to compare also against some economic numbers and transit budgets someday. Transit budgets will be a challenge — the Bay Area has at least 28 different public transportation providers, and I have no idea what the situation is in places like Detroit and Atlanta. Maybe someday I’ll crunch those numbers and turn this into some kind of nifty infographic link bait.

Some examples of what I have in mind by drilling down to a few cities:

  • The St. Louis Metro Transit serves a population of 2.5 million people over 526 square miles with an operating budget of $260 million. That’s $104 per person. If we multiply population and area, that’s $1.20 per person per square mile (pppsm). (Would another measure that factors in coverage area work better?)
  • Dallas Area Rapid Transit covers about 700 square miles and serves 2.4 million people on $422 million. $176 / person & $1.45 ppsm
  • VTA serves 1.7 million people in Santa Clara County, California, on an operating budget of $360 million for the “326 square mile urbanized portion of Santa Clara County.” $212 / person, and $1.90 pppsm. (VTA also contributes to the budget for Caltrain and intercounty bus services).
  • San Francisco Muni spends $700 million per year for a 47 square mile service area with a population of 800,000. That’s $875 per person. PPSM = $204. (SF Muni also contributes to Caltrain budget; city taxpayers also fund BART seperately).
  • New York MTA spends $12 Billion in operations annually for 14.6 million people spread over 5,000 square miles. $857 / person and $35.04 ppsm.

I guess it’s time for me to learn how to use chart creation software to make all of this a bit more visual.


  1. I once applied for a job that explicitly said in the listing, “must have your own car.” I did, at the time, but was trying to wean myself from it. Against my girlfriend’s advice, I arrived at the interview by bike. I don’t recall if I had to reassure them that I did own a motor vehicle. But I got the job, and it was the job I held when I went car free. This was in Washington, DC. Between public transportation, a folding bike, and a car sharing service, my job performance didn’t suffer for lack of a car.

    I should blog about this, or something, shouldn’t I?

  2. Yes, please write your story.  Did you need to travel during your work day or were they concerned about you getting to and from work?

  3. I needed to travel during my workday to parts of DC that aren’t particularly well connected to the public transportation system — but that’s where the folding bike came in handy. I’d take the Metro to the nearest station to my destination, and then bike the final stretch. (I almost never used the bus system.)

  4. It’s unfair to compare Muni spending to Bay Area listings. The Bay Area as a whole is transit-poor, while San Francisco city proper is transit-rich. Do you have the numbers for the city of San Francisco?

  5. Did you read the entire post, Mario? I listed out SF Muni spending in detail.

    Edit: SOrry, I misread your comment. I agree entire Bay area spending is on the low side and I allude to that in my comment about 28 different agencies here. But 18 listings for the entire Bay Area still seems pretty good.

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