That has long been established, suburban communities, such as Sacramento—where only 2.66% of commuting is done through mass transit—don’t use mass transit, and this article from New Geography pinpoints the statistics.
Our transit money would be much better spent on road enhancement and maintenance.
Transit best serves commuting destinations that have high concentrations of employment. For the most part, this means downtowns, or central business districts (CBDs). This is where transit lives up to its “mass transit” name, carrying many people concurrently and efficiently to concentrated destinations. When the same people return home, the “mass” is at the origin, and destinations are dispersed throughout the metropolitan area outside of downtowns, much of transit service is anything but mass, as residents of suburban and other communities frequently note “all the empty buses.”
According to the City Sector Model, high density downtowns have an average of more than 23,000 jobs per square mile, 30 times the major metropolitan area average. CBD densities rise above 100,000 per square mile in New York and Chicago.
This article analyzes transit commuting destinations in the 53 major metropolitan areas (1,000,000 or more residents in 2014). The data is all taken from the 2006-2010, which has been developed by the ASHTO Census Transportation Planning Package from the ACS data and is the latest available for detailed employment locations. We used this data to develop Demographia United States Central Business Districts, which is described in this previous post.
Summary of Transit Commuting
CBD’s typically have the most important concentration of tall buildings in metropolitan areas, and typically the tallest buildings. The strongest CBDs were established before the automobile became dominant, and mechanized transport, in the form of transit, was radially oriented toward downtown. To this day, many people, including some in the press and urban planning perceive downtown to be where most of the jobs are. Yet, the high density CBD’s (over 20,000 jobs per square mile) account for only eight percent of the employment in the 53 major metropolitan areas, and far less in many.
As an example, the Chicago CBD, including the Chicago Loop (photo at the top of the article) includes some of the tallest buildings in the United States and 500,000 jobs, yet accounts for only 11 percent of the metropolitan area employment. These jobs are concentrated in an area of only 3.4 square miles (8.8 square kilometers). By contrast, the built up urban area is 2,700 square miles (7,000 square miles) and the metropolitan area covers 7,200 square miles (18,500 square kilometers). This concentration of so many jobs in such a small area contributes to some the nation’s worst traffic congestion, even with a high transit market share.
The suburbs and exurbs dominate metropolitan employment, containing 65 percent of the jobs in the major metropolitan areas. The balance of the jobs (27 percent) are in the historical core municipalities, but outside the CBD (Figure 1)