Transit and economic resilience

by Martin Pinckney

Are communities who invest in Bus Rapid Transit systems more resilient than those who do not? A recent inquiry from the National Institute for Transportation and Communities suggests as much (PDF). The inquiry posed the following question: “Do LRT corridors capture proportionately more jobs than control corridors during and after economic shocks?”

Using data from the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics program—a part of the Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau—the inquiry compared how jobs faired in several control corridors against corridors with fixed guideway transit stations (BRT and Rail) during 21st Century recessions. This included the following metropolitan areas: Dallas, Denver, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, Charlotte, Houston, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The study found that within a quarter mile, transit corridors performed better than their controls in half or more of all cases, and were more resilient in weathering the Great Recession in nearly all of the metropolitan areas. In fact, during the Great Recession, transit corridors outperformed control corridors in manufacturing, retail/lodging, office, and education jobs— and outperformed entire metropolitan areas (excluding manufacturing) in three of the areas as well.

The research on transit and economic resiliency is still new, but the data of this preliminary study suggests what transit advocates have been saying all along: communities who invest in BRT are more economically resilient.