Study: Greater Cincinnati Still Near the Bottom for Jobs Accessible by Public Transit, but Improving

A new report ranked Cincinnati among the top 10 cities increasing access to jobs via public transit

Jul 6, 2018 at 11:04 am

click to enlarge Buses at Government Square - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Buses at Government Square

When it comes to getting to work via public transit, Cincinnati started from the bottom, now we’re… a little ways up from the bottom.

The Cincinnati metropolitan area was 10th in the nation for increasing accessibility to workplaces via public transit last year, a recent study found — but the region still lags far behind most others.

Transit accessibility to jobs increased in Cincinnati by 6.78 percent last year, according to the University of Minnesota’s Accessibility Observatory report. But that improvement is just a start for a region where most jobs aren’t accessible by public transit at all.

Thousands of riders on SORTA’s Metro system face long, convoluted commutes, some riding for more than an hour and taking transfers to get from one Cincinnati neighborhood to another just a few miles away. Those riders include people like Whitney Harmon, whom CityBeat spoke to last year for a story on Metro. Harmon rides the bus an hour each way from her home in Winton Terrace to her job as a cook downtown. Others face even longer commutes.

The new report ranks Cincinnati 39th in the country in terms of jobs accessible by public transit, even though the city ranks 26th in overall employment. The Cleveland metro area, by contrast, ranked 29th for transit accessibility, even though it ranked lower than Cincinnati (28th) for overall jobs. The Columbus metro area came in 25th for accessibility to jobs via transit, though it ranks 31st for overall employment.

Other peer cities like St. Louis, Louisville, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh also fare better in the rankings for overall accessibility, though Cincinnati did better than Nashville and Kansas City.

Of the Cincinnati metropolitan area’s 1,018,914 jobs, just 365 are accessible by transit within 10 minutes, according to the report. Another 2,157 are accessible within 20 minutes. Those numbers are lower than Ohio’s other big cities, and the gap gets even bigger for jobs accessible within 40 to 60 minutes. Both Columbus and Cleveland have more than 74,500 jobs reachable by transit in that time. Despite having more jobs overall, the Cincinnati metropolitan area has just 48,793 jobs you can reach via public transit in an hour.

SORTA is considering a .5 percent to 1 percent sales tax levy for November’s ballot. If passed, it would mark a departure from Cincinnati’s unusual transit funding arrangement in which the city covers nearly all of the cost for the region’s bus service. Depending on the size of that levy, SORTA could shore up big coming budget deficits for Metro, or, with a more ambitious ask, greatly expand the bus system’s connection to the region’s jobs.