Downward Mobility


How Location of Bay Area Job Growth Will Exacerbate Congestion and Reduce Job Accessibility.


Transportation Choices Forum (now known as TransForm)

Year Published: 


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Executive Summary

Nearly a million new jobs are projected for the Bay Area over the next twenty years- a 30% increase over existing levels of employment. This report measures the frequency of transit service in each census tract for which job growth is projected. The results indicate that 565,728 new jobs, more than half of all those projected, are expected to locate in areas with infrequent transit service.

These findings have ominous implications for every Bay Area resident. The increased traffic associated with these new car-oriented workplaces will exacerbate highway congestion, particularly during commute times. Many more Bay Area residents will experience the frustration of daily traffic congestion, as automobile commuting continues to transform from a matter of choice into an inescapable aspect of life in our region.

For job-seekers who do not own cars - mostly low income families and communities of color - a greater share of employment opportunities will be inaccessible. Even when transit does serve outlying job locations, it can be expensive, require numerous transfers, and lack night and weekend service altogether. For these reasons, transportation has been identified as one of the biggest obstacles for getting welfare recipients to work.

To address the long-term challenges of transit access to jobs, the report concludes, changes are needed in public policies and investments that promote employment sprawl. At the local level, cities and counties should adjust general plans and zoning ordinances in order to re-direct growth to areas within their jurisdictions that are more transit accessible. Specifically, local leaders should:

  1. Amend general plans to cluster employment growth around transit.
  2. Implement a specific plan for areas surrounding transit stations.
  3. Design streets to encourage workers and residents to travel by means other than the automobile.
  4. Reduce minimum parking allowances for transit-oriented development.
  5. Involve residents early in the design process.
  6. Reduce the review time required for transit-oriented projects.
  7. Require new development to pay the full cost of infrastructure expansion.
  8. Require employers to offer financial incentives that promote transit and alternatives to solo driving.
  9. Support regional or sub-regional programs to share tax revenues from new commercial growth.
  10. Collaborate with neighboring municipalities on mutually beneficial projects.

The growing mismatch between jobs and public transportation cannot be addressed without an adequate regional transit system, or without an improved regional planning framework. That is why the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), which helps guide over $88 billion in Bay Area transportation funding over the next twenty years, is so critical. In the 1998 RTP update the Metropolitan Transportation Commission should promote investments and policies which encourage employment growth that is accessible, both conveniently and affordably, by a range of transportation modes. Regional recommendations include:

  1. Include full funding for anticipated transit capital shortfalls in the Regional Transportation Plan.
  2. Adopt transportation performance goals for the region.
  3. Amend transportation funding criteria to encourage walkable, transitoriented communities.
  4. Establish a framework and set of incentives for comprehensive, collaborative regional and sub-regional planning.

The implementation of these recommendations would create transportation choices for residents to travel to jobs, education, commercial areas and other activities, and could lead to lower transportation costs and a higher quality of life for every Bay Area resident.

Download the full report (765k PDF file)