Monday, January 12, 2009

Who Lives Around Transit?


America is seeing an emerging interest in transit-oriented development (TOD). There are many advantages to living near rail transit, and within the greater Philadelphia region, there are more than 90 TOD projects recently completed or in the pipeline. However, nobody has truly analyzed who currently lives around rail transit, and whether those people take advantage of this asset.

Until now.

A new report from DVRPC (that I authored) crunches the numbers for 375 transit zones in the region. A transit zone is an area within a half-mile-radius of a rail transit stop. While other reports have looked at transit usage and demographics by neighborhood or municipality, this report analyzes data for people living within the transit zones.

This type of analysis shows the differences between people who live near transit, and the region as a whole. For example, 71% of people in the region identify as White, while 47% of those in transit zones identify as White. For the region as a whole, 73.7% percent of commuters drive, whereas in transit zones the percentage of people commuting by car is 66%.

For those of us promoting TOD, or for developers looking to build TOD, this report sheds some light on how people around transit currently live. For example, 66.7% of people who live in transit zones own zero or one car per household. Nearly 40% of residents in transit zones have average household incomes of over $50,000 per year. The median age of residents in transit zones is 36.4.

The report also shows all of the data sets per transit zone, by rail stop. From this type of base-level data we can learn, for example, that only 7.4% of people who live within a half mile of the Ambler SEPTA train station (an area with new TOD projects) currently commute using mass transit (yet untapped opportunity?).

Anyway, enough number crunching for now. If you are interested, check out the full report here. I will warn you, it is not the most graphically interesting report. Not to mention, it is far from the final word on the state of TOD in the region. However, I think it is an important step forward. I'd love to hear what my readers think.

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