Richard Florida: Transit Provides Families Financial Benefits
“Walkable” and pedestrian-friendly streets, easy access to rail, or even convenient access to transit can pay financial dividends for families. So says Richard Florida, an urban studies theorist, author of Cities and the Creative Class, and expert on cities’ ability to attract young and creative talent. A recent study revealed that families who live areas with convenient access to public transportation (such as Portland, OR, pictured) have far more disposable income than those who live in automobile-dependent neighborhoods. Across the board, most families spend about one-third of their income on housing. But families who live in areas bereft of public transportation spend about one-quarter of their income on transportation. Overall families spend about 19%; in families who live in cities or near a transit hub, that proportion falls to less than one-tenth of a family’s income. The big difference? After food and housing, seamless access to rail or other forms of public transportation means families have almost 60% of their income free to spend after housing and transport costs. For folks in the distant or inaccessible burbs or exurbs, that falls to 43%. That 16% differential can make a big difference for families in a bad economy. The debate over high speed rail and other transport projects and whether they are economically viable is a fair one. The conversation has turned toxic, however, and when it comes to transit projects, a carefully outlined microeconomic analysis, rather than an emphasis on macroeconomic factors like who gets taxed and what companies benefit, should be enough for our country to move towards such investments. Having done both--commuting by car and commuting my transit--I prefer the latter. With gadgets like MP3 players and tablet computers, having someone else do the driving is far more relaxing.