Public Transit: Vancouver-Portland ranks No. 12

National study looks at how effectively it works for commuters in 100 metropolitan areas

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

Updated: May 12, 2011, 7:25 PM

 

A national study of how effectively public transit works for commuters in metropolitan areas ranks the Vancouver-Portland-Hillsboro area 12th out of 100.

The study was released Thursday by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program in Washington, D.C.

“People take transit for any number of reasons, but one of the most common is to get to work,” according to the report titled “Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America.”

“However, when it comes to the question of how effectively transit connects people and jobs within and across these metropolitan areas, strikingly little is known. With governments at all levels considering deep budget cuts, it is increasingly important to understand not just the location and frequency of transit service, but ultimately how well transit aligns with where people work and live.”

Honolulu ranked first; Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, N.Y. ranked 100th.

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue ranked 18th.

The analysis found that transit coverage is highest in the West and lowest in the South and “regardless of region, residents of cities and lower-income neighborhoods have better access to transit than residents of suburbs and middle/higher-income neighborhoods.”

Scott Patterson, C-Tran’s public affairs director, said while the study shows C-Tran does a good job of providing urban services, the high ranking can be credited to south of the Columbia River.

“You can see the region is very well served, but I don’t think we would compete on the same level as Tri-Met,” Patterson said.

The study found that 83 percent of working-age residents in the Vancouver-Portland-Hillsboro area are near (defined as within three-quarters of a mile) a transit stop; the average among all 100 metro areas was 69 percent.

The median wait for any rush hour transit vehicle was 7.4 minutes, below the national average in metro areas of 10.1 minutes.

Forty percent of jobs in the Portland area were judged to be accessible via public transit within 90 minutes, better than the metro area average of 30 percent.

Ninety-nine percent of working adults in low-income neighborhoods were near a transit stop; that figure dropped to 84 percent for middle-income neighborhoods and 71 percent in high-income neighborhoods.

“With our existing bus service we are doing a good job of providing service for those residents who need it the most,” Patterson said.

Patterson said ridership on C-Tran’s seven fixed commuter routes — the I-5 Express, Salmon Creek Express, Lloyd District Express, Fisher’s Landing Express, Evergreen Express, Marquam Hill Express and 99th Street Express — totaled 706,863 in 2010, down from 811,342 in 2009. The decrease was attributed to the economy and high unemployment, he said.

Overall, however, C-Tran’s ridership was up in 2010 to 6.5 million, from 6.4 million in ’09.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.