Transit-oriented employment: how workplace location effects commute modes


The train tracks at Denver’s historic Union Station, the redevelopment of which spurred a lot of new office (and residential) construction in the immediate vicinity. (Photo credit: Larry Goodwin)

A 2015 travel survey conducted by Mobility Lab found that in Arlington County the decision to commute with transit or a personal car was influenced more by the proximity of a person’s workplace to transit than their housing. This same finding was observed by researchers in Denver studying the different effects of working versus living near transit.

Similar findings show up in many regions. A 2014 report by Jennifer Dill found that employee ridership in the Bay Area dwindles for every quarter mile away from the station employment is located and is dependent on true walking distances (as opposed to as the crow flies).

Research about the link between employment location and ridership goes back all the way to 1977’s Public Transportation and Land Use Policy, which discussed the importance of a downtown’s total square footage in the effectiveness of different transit technologies and service levels. While dense downtowns have always been focal points for transit service, much of the TOD literature and discussion until a few years ago has been focused on housing.

While the location of both housing and employment are important in deciding how to get to work, employer benefits can tip the scales in favor of transit usage. Transit subsidies, secure bike parking, and carpool matching provide incentives to take active transportation instead of driving alone in a car. When given these types of incentives, just 31 percent of workers in the survey drove alone. Without the incentives, the share of workers that drove alone jumped to 61 percent, a huge swing. What’s more, when a person uses a non-car transportation mode for commuting, they’re more likely to do the same for personal trips too.

Several resources at focus on the employment side of the TOD equation, including the TOD 202: Transit and Employment manual and a TOD and Employment white paper, both sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration. More documents can be found in the economic development and employment category of the archive.

Recent TOD news

Here are a few things that have been happening this week with TOD projects across the country.