Benefits of Transit - Economic
Transit-oriented development in Santa Monica, CA (Source: RACTOD Flickr)
Economic development and private investment
While transit in general has many economic benefits, rail transit in particular holds the real economic power because of it's capacity to attract private investment. The area around transit stations is in high demand for a number of reasons. Corporations prefer to locate there to provide easy and reliable access for their employees. Retail establishments can take advantage of increased foot traffic from transit riders. Many residents will desire to live in close proximity to a station so they can easily commute to work or school and access other amenities. All of these factors combine to create new investment along the rail line, typically referred to as transit-oriented development (TOD). Across the nation, for every $1 spent on public transportation, $4-6 of private money is invested along the line, leading to huge economic returns.1 In the state of Florida, FDOT has stated that for every $1 spent on transportation, $5.60 is created in economic and use benefits.2 Below are some examples of this huge return on investment from throughout the nation (figures are as of 2010):
- Charlotte experienced $1.5 billion in investments, excluding the downtown area. When the downtown area is included, that number increases to more than $3 billion.3
- Phoenix has experienced $7.4 billion of development along their line since 2001. This includes $5.9 billion in private investment and $1.5 billion in non-rail public investment.3
- Dallas has experienced $4.26 billion in development since 1999.3
Investing in public transportation, particularly in rail, creates tens of thousands of jobs. The American Public Transportation Association estimates that for every $1 billion invested in public transportation, 36,000 jobs are created.4 Infrastructure investment is known to create jobs, but investing in transit creates 19% more jobs than investing in roads.5 According to a study at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, public transportation spending creates more jobs than spending on education, health care, defense, and even tax cuts (per $1 billion spent).6
Many of these jobs are in construction, but there are also many operations, maintenance and administrative positions. Still more jobs are supported by the salaries of these workers. For example, 10 new transit employees may spend enough on groceries that a local supermarket hires another clerk. This trickle down effect supports jobs across all sectors of the economy. Still more jobs are created through the increased private investment described above.
Public transportation plays a role when people choose where to live because it affects quality of life, cost of living, mobility options, and access to amenities. Younger workers, age 20-40 in particular, increasingly desire to live in areas where they have cheap and convenient options to move between work, entertainment, shopping, and recreation. Furthermore, communities that are attractive and sensitive to the environment are sought increasingly by college graduates and other skilled workers. Transit sends a “green” message making a region more desirable to this key demographic.1 These factors combined allow communities with ample public transit to compete more effectively for the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, and creative young professionals who will grow new businesses and stimulate the economy. Adding public transportation to the Tampa Bay region's already ample amenities - beautiful weather and climate, sports, arts, entertainment, etc. - will allow our communities, and our economy, to rise to the top.
The problem of job access exacerbates the problem of unemployment. Often times, there are unemployed individuals who want to work and there are jobs available that they are capable of doing. However, without the ability to get to these jobs, they are forced to remain unemployed. High quality public transportation addresses this issue by providing affordable, reliable job access. An example from Minneapolis helps to illustrate this point. When the Hiawatha line to the southern suburbs and other transit network upgrades were completed, the number of low-wage jobs accessible by 30 minutes of transit travel in morning peak hours increased by 14,000 jobs in lightrail station areas and by 4,000 jobs in areas with direct light-rail bus connections.7
Lower household expenses
A typical commuter in our area spends an additional 47 hours each year in traffic, and spends an estimated $928 in congestion-related costs (fuel costs, vehicle wear, lost time, etc).8 Using public transportation can reduce household expenses by $6,200. That's more than the average household pays for food in a year.9 Having access to high quality public transportation can also allow families to give up one or more vehicles. According to AAA, the cost of owning, insuring, and operating a car ranges from $7,000-$10,000 per year, and that doesn't include car payments.10 By eliminating a car and using public transportation, families can save many thousands of dollars each year.
The users of public transportation aren't the only ones who benefit. Even if you never ride it, transit can save you money too. According to the American Public Transportation Association, every $10 million invested in public transportation saves more than $15 million in transportation costs, for both highway and transit users.10 With more people taking transit, congestion is reduced and your costs in time, fuel, and vehicle maintenance all decrease.
How much could you save by switching to public transportation? Click here to find out.
(1) American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Public Transportation Takes Us There, http://www.publictransportation.org/takesusthere/docs/apta_media_kit_r2.pdf
(2) Florida Department of Transportation, August 2006.
(3) Cambridge Systematics, Economic Benefits of Transit, Draft Report to HART, 2010.
(4) Economic Development Research Group, Job Impacts of Spending on Public Transportation: An Update, Prepared for the American Public Transportation Association, April 2009.
(5) Surface Transportation Policy Project, Decoding Transportation Policy and Practice #11, January 2004.
(6) Pollin and Garrett-Peltier, The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities, October 2007.
(7) University of Minnesota, Center for Transportation Studies, How Light-Rail Transit Improves Job Access for Low-Wage Workers (Research Brief), March 2010.
(8) HART Rapid Transit Solutions Brochure, 2010.
(9) ICF International, Public Transportation and Petroleum Savings in the U.S.: Reducing Dependence on Oil, Prepared for the American Public Transportation Association, January 2007.
(10) AAA Association Communication, Your Driving Costs: How much are you really paying to drive?, 2010 Edition.
BACK TO "WHY TRANSIT"