What Brookings Has to Say About Portland’s Transit Equity

A recent Brookings Institute report puts Portland at the 12th best transit city in the U.S. This has gotten a lot of local media play because it contrasts with a recent popular media publication that put us first (more than a few of us were skeptical about that, if happy to accept the accolade).

But more interesting is that Brookings measures some interesting things. For example, nationally 30% of jobs in major metros were found to be accessible by transit within 90 minutes (thanks to Portland Afoot for that pointer).

Portland’s profile shows that we do better – about 40% of jobs.

But some of the other data in the profile is also very interesting. On all three measures: coverage, frequency and access, Portland does better by low-income neighborhoods than it does for high-income neighborhoods. This essentially confirms the core conclusion of our own Transit Equity analysis based on Transit Score.

Not of course that we shouldn’t strive to do better on all measures.

6 responses to “What Brookings Has to Say About Portland’s Transit Equity”

  1. I keep waiting for someone to point out that the Brookings study and the US News and World Reports analysis are not apples to apples.

    The Brookings study measured mobility and access to job centers, and the “cost effectiveness” of providing that service. It was more concerned with a specific cohort of transit users (ie the workforce) and more concerned with efficiency of accomplishing one task – getting people to and from work as cheaply and quickly as possible.

    The US News analysis used much different measures, like safety, spending per capita (investment), variety of transit modes etc. – basically, it attempted to quantify how “sexy” a total transit system is.

  2. I maintain my criticism of the report: by arbitrarily using a 90 minute benchmark, it skews the data in favor of smaller metro areas where even the longest trips to work are relatively short. A more meaningful comparison would have been to compare the median or average car commute in the metro region with comparable transit trips.

  3. Both the US World News and this report are methodologically flawed to the core.

    The very idea that NYC is not on any of the lists is mind boggling.

  4. Douglas K. Says: A more meaningful comparison would have been to compare the median or average car commute in the metro region with comparable transit trips.
    JK: Here is the data, including spreadsheet, for that comparison:


    based on all 74 USA cities with population of 500,000 or more, data from the American Community Survey for 2005-2007 and compiled by a CPA, former CFO of the Los Angelas transit system.


  5. It should be stated that the Brookings report itself does not contain any top-ten lists; the top-ten list was generated by The Atlantic magazine using the Brookings data. The Brookings report itself is here; Human Transit is covering the issue here.

    Brookings isn’t quite as dumb as The Atlantic makes them look. :)

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