When all residents can easily travel to various businesses and activity centers, reach a broad range of jobs, and access an education by transit or other affordable trip options, the transportation system can better support economic growth.
However, the region’s transportation system does not always provide equitable access—and, as a result, it fosters inequitable growth that inhibits the Capital Region’s economic potential.
|Share of jobs accessible within 45 minutes|
|Black residents more likely to live in...|
|Low vehicle ownership, low transit access area||Concentrated poverty area|
As outlined in other sections of this plan, the Partnership encourages our region to use a common definition of equitable access, and proposes the use of the following: We define equitable access as every resident of the Capital Region—regardless of his or her community, race, ability, or background—having consistent, safe, affordable, and dependable physical access to quality employment with living wages and benefits, education, and necessities that enable economic mobility and opportunity.
While the main purpose of transportation is to connect people to destinations, often minority and low-income communities lack the connectivity found in majority and high-income neighborhoods within their same region. Nationally, and within the Capital Region, historic decisions have created a transportation system that provides unequal access to jobs, healthcare, and education—often based on race. As such, transportation policies and investments have often excluded people of color from being able to easily access economic and social opportunity. The process known as redlining excluded low-income and minority communities from fair participation in housing and credit markets with discriminatory lending practices.1 Major transportation projects razed neighborhoods with majority African-American and immigrant populations, leaving remaining communities isolated and often without access to the new transportation facilities.2 In many instances, these decisions are still producing negative outcomes today.
A growing body of research literature finds that more equitable regions experience greater upward mobility and stronger, more sustained growth.3 A study of 38 metro areas with above-average economic growth between 2006 and 2016 found that over 70 percent of them were also higher performing on inclusion.4 A study of economic impacts associated with declining inequality between 1960 and 2008 attributes 15 to 20 percent of economic growth to reductions in the barriers women and blacks face in their access to skilled professions.5 When all residents can easily travel to various businesses and activity centers, reach a broad range of jobs, and access education, the transportation system better supports inclusive economic growth.
Inequitable growth inhibits the Capital Region’s economic potential. A study by PolicyLink and PERE found that Fairfax County’s rising inequality and racial gaps cost the Washington metro area $26.2 billion in potential GDP in 2012.6
Leaders in the Capital Region can support more inclusive economic growth in the region by better incorporating equitable access into our transportation plans, investments, land use decisions, and hiring. How well a transportation system serves everyone—including a region’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations—directly impacts the region’s overall economic growth.
Capital Region Performance
Clear disparities exist—both by income and by race—in access to opportunity afforded by the transportation system across the Capital Region.7 The average Capital Region resident can access more than 1,320,000 jobs by vehicle, 109,000 jobs by transit, 203,000 jobs by bicycle, and 25,000 jobs by walking within 45 minutes from their home.8 Within this timeframe, transit provides access to 8 percent of the total number of jobs available by vehicle region-wide.9 Black residents in the Capital Region are almost three times as likely as likely as white residents to live in areas with poor transit access to jobs and low vehicle ownership rates.10 Households in poverty are almost two-and-a-half times more likely to live in areas with poor transit access to jobs and low vehicle ownership rates.11
Analysis of the Baltimore, Washington, and Richmond metro areas finds that having access to a car is critical for residents to access jobs in activity centers as well as health centers—and to further education at universities and community colleges.
Within 45 minutes, residents who drive can access almost six times more jobs than the average transit consumer in Baltimore City.12 In the Baltimore metro area, the average resident can access over 70 percent of the almost 1.4 million jobs within 45 minutes by vehicle.13 However, transit provides residents access to only 58,000 jobs within 45 minutes—representing just 6 percent of the number of jobs available by vehicle region-wide in the same timeframe.14 In Baltimore City, black residents are three-and-a-half times more likely than white residents to live in areas with low transit accessibility to jobs and are four times more likely than white residents to live in a concentrated poverty area.15
In the Washington metro area, nearly 30 percent of residents have no transit access within 45 minutes to any of the area’s 187 activity centers.16 Black residents in the District are nearly 17 times more likely than white residents to live in areas with low transit accessibility to jobs as well as with low vehicle ownership.17 The average resident in the Washington metropolitan area can access more than 1.7 million jobs within 45 minutes by vehicle—yet just 160,000 jobs within the same amount of time traveling by transit.18
Currently, a little over half of Richmond’s low-income households are within a quarter-mile of weekday bus services—and only 50 percent of lower-wage jobs are located within a quarter-mile of a transit stop.19 Across the Richmond metro area, the average resident can access 21,000 jobs within a 45-minute transit ride, which represents just 4 percent of the number of jobs available by vehicle region-wide in the same timeframe.20 While Henrico County has made bold investments in recent budgets to enhance its transit options, transit access remains unavailable in parts of Henrico and in virtually all of Chesterfield County—the two counties where nearly 52 percent of all jobs in the metro area are located.21
Since personal vehicle ownership may be cost-prohibitive for low-income households, a transportation system lacking affordable alternatives to driving can restrict residents’ access to opportunity and their ability to fully contribute to the region’s economic growth. A successful approach is to maximize dense, mixed-use, market-rate, and affordable development near regional transit corridors. This can improve job accessibility, significantly decrease the length of unemployment for workers, increase transit ridership, and increase the region’s supply of affordable housing. In addition, the household cost savings associated with lower transportation costs allow lower-income households to redirect that spending toward other necessities such as healthy food, education, or healthcare.22
In addition, local and targeted hiring policies can further promote our region as a place of opportunity. This, in turn, impacts the area’s ability to retain and attract talent and investment. Spending by public agencies in the Capital Region is projected to be over $300 billion between 2015 and 2040.23 Investment in our workforce creates jobs and keeps more money in local neighborhoods and regions because employed residents tend to spend disposable income locally, which improves the economic strength and vitality of the region. It also brings in additional tax revenue; according to one analysis, if all Los Angeles Metro transportation projects employed targeted hire, they would generate $65 million in additional tax revenue for that region.24
Leaders in the Capital Region can support more inclusive economic growth by better incorporating equitable access into the region’s transportation plans, investments, and procurement policies.
- Inclusive Transit: Advancing Equity Through Improved Access to Opportunity. Transit Center, July 2018.
- Equitable Growth Profile of Fairfax County. PolicyLink and USC Program for Environmental & Regional Equity, 2015. http://nationalequityatlas.org/sites/default/files/Fairfax-Profile-6June2015-final.pdf.
- “Economic inclusion may be the key to lasting growth and prosperity.” Brookings, March 2018. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/03/16/economic-inclusion-key-growth-prosperity/.
- Bradbury, Katharine and Robert K. Triest. Introduction: Inequality of Economic Opportunity. RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 2(2), 1-43 (2016). Published Online: May 2016. https://www.rsfjournal.org/doi/full/10.7758/RSF.2016.2.2.01.
- The study estimated the percentage increase in aggregate income if age-adjusted average income (and income distributions) for six mutually exclusive racial/ethnic groups were the same as for non-Hispanic whites. Once the percentage increase in overall average annual income was estimated, 2012 GDP was assumed to rise by the same percentage. Equitable Growth Profile of Fairfax County: PolicyLink and USC Program for Environmental & Regional Equity, 2015. http://nationalequityatlas.org/sites/default/files/Fairfax-Profile-6June2015-final.pdf
- Greater Washington Partnership data analysis generated using Citilabs Sugar Dataset, which includes 2007-2011 ACS Data, 2012-2016 ACS Data, 2015 Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Data, and Citilabs transportation networks.
- Hersey, John and Michael A. Spotts. Promoting Opportunity through Equitable Transit-Oriented Development (eTOD): Making the Case. Enterprise Community Partners, April 2015.
- Partnership analysis of the 2040 long-range transportation plans for the BRTB, TPB, FAMPO and RRTPO.
- Moving LA Forward: Promoting Construction Careers at Metro. Los Angeles: Laane, 2011. http://www.laane.org/downloads/Construction-Careers-Report-Summary-January-2011.pdf.