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Friday, June 2, 2017

The Challenge of Availability

In these past four years I have lived in seven different cities and utilized four different public transportation systems. My biggest challenge has always been availability: how far does the transportation cover, how often transportation arrives, and how far do I need to walk to reach transportation options.

For instance, some communities have a city transportation system – usually just local buses. This is fine if you work close to home and have shopping and friends nearby. However, other communities have a regional system, including train options, that expands to many neighboring cities. Various transit systems either limit or expand my work, shopping, and social choices. I have experience with both these transportation designs.


Consider this…

1) How far are you willing to walk?
2) Is your answer different for work than for shopping or socializing?
3) Does your answer change if you only need transportation one-way or if you have a different option for returning home?
4) Is your answer based on a measure of time or a measure of distance?

Now, compare your answers with study results of how far Americans are willing to walk to reach public transportation? Although Americans are not famous for their desire to walk farther than necessary, one study have found that:

For walking duration, the mean and median values were 14.9 and 10 minutes. About 65% of walking trips were more than 0.25 miles, and about 18% of walking trips were more than 1 mile. Large variations were found among various purposes for both distance and duration. The distances and durations of walking for recreation were substantially longer than those for other purposes. People with lower versus higher household income walked longer distances for work but shorter distances for recreation.1
Another availability factor to consider is the number of transfers needed to reach the destination. Each transfer requires waiting for another bus/train to arrive. 

How long would you be willing to wait between transfers?

Frequently I will weigh the length of the wait versus the time needed to walk from the transfer location to my destination. 
Depending upon the weather, I usually consider walking if my wait time will be longer than 10-15 minutes.
Many factors come into play when considering public transit options. Tons of research has been conducted on factors such as Population Density, Mixed Land Usage, and Urban design. Other factors studied are Income, Gender, and Age. 

My adventures have brought me to a community that is generally very walkable, especially near the city center. I’m optimistic about the coming expansions in the availability of the local transit system here, which makes this challenge a bit easier!

   *** For someone who enjoys statistics and tables, this site has more updated and extensive information: https://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-15.pdf