, Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Andrew Guthrie, Former U of M Researcher, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
The 2040 regional transitway system--which includes existing and proposed transitways--will offer significant employment accessibility benefits to some of the most disadvantaged areas in the Twin Cities: the Areas of Concentrated Poverty, where 50 percent more of residents are people of color (ACP50s), as well as nearly- and possibly-ACP50s identified by the Metropolitan Council. (Hereafter, we use "ACP50" as inclusive of nearly- and possibly-ACP50 census tracts.) Providing fast, reliable, and affordable transit connections between these areas and regional employment centers is a crucial action in attempting to lift disadvantaged populations out of poverty. However, although proposed Twin Cities transitway alignments are largely set, planning decisions, including station siting and connecting bus service improvements, have yet to be made. This may affect the size of the accessibility benefits disadvantaged population groups actually receive.
Further, prior research suggests that improved transit systems are often necessary but not sufficient for improved employment outcomes among disadvantaged population groups. Besides accessibility, other barriers may lie in the way of the unemployed and working poor's efforts to better their lot in life. For example, low-income populations, especially low-income minorities, are often perceived as lacking marketable skills and/or "soft" people skills that are critical to job interview success. Low-income minorities also tend to concentrate in poor, urban neighborhoods that often are deprived of safe and convenient multi-modal connections to premium transit services. In addition, disadvantaged population groups face unique time constraints and have complex travel patterns that may prevent them from taking advantage of improved transit systems.
This research aims to develop strategies to leverage the public investment represented by the regional transit system to benefit residents of ACP50s to the greatest degree possible. It will do so through a case study approach and focused regional accessibility analysis. First, researchers are conducting job accessibility analyses for multiple transitway station siting and connecting bus route scenarios. The goal here is to produce transit planning recommendations to maximize the actual accessibility benefits that could be realized by ACP50 residents. Second, researchers are addressing last-mile issues in ACP50s by producing a neighborhood-level inventory of daily destinations along with local, non-automotive accessibility calculations between homes, destinations and regional transit stations, as well as considerations of crime rates and snow-removal violations. Finally, researchers are examining policies to remove non-transportation employment barriers through focus groups of residents, producing a set of policy recommendations to maximize the benefits that could be realized by ACP50 residents from transitway investments.