Super-commuting on the rise and in the news


If you were offered a dream job in a city far from home would you want to uproot and resettle? For a growing number of people, living and working in two different time zones is a daily reality, no resettling required. Super-commuters, people who work more than 180 miles from their home, usually commute by plane or train and expand urban work-forces across time zones.

In 2012, the Rudin Center released The Emergence of the Super-Commuter, a report on super-commuter demographics and trends. The findings highlight that super-commuters are more likely to be younger (29 years old and under) and middle-class than the average worker.

Citing our report, Forbes profiled three super-commuters this week. These commuters travel from their homes daily, weekly, and bi-weekly via plane and train over 180 miles each way. These super-commuters sacrifice time and sometimes comfort to maintain lives in cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia while contributing to the workforce in New York City and Boston.

Future planning decisions, as our 2012 report notes, should consider the implications of growing numbers of super commuters, who link cities more than 200 miles apart. What will increasing flexibility for travelers and in the workplace mean for your city?

A/C Will Be There Soon


Source: nymag.com

By Justin Tyndall, Edited by Nolan Levenson

New York City has had a heat wave this week, with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees five days in a row.  Most New Yorkers know that the subway stations get excessively hot and humid. According to the folks at “L-Degrees”, the average temperature yesterday on an L train platform was 108° F, and with high humidity it felt substantially hotter.  For comparison, in Death Valley, California yesterday the temperature was 115° F. Good thing the L train arrives every 3 minutes during rush hours.

Not only does the weather outside heat up the station, but air conditioners used to cool the subway cars create hot exhaust which adds additional heat.  Due to the vast ventilation system of the subway, it is impractical to introduce air conditioning in stations. Additionally, there is a lack of space for the machinery that would be needed.

Other cities have air conditioned platforms, including Washington DC’s Metro, but New York’s more antiquated system may make such a retrofit difficult.  Other systems including Dubai Metro, Singapore MRT, and the JFK AirTrain accomplish climate control with the help of platform screen doors which help keep the cooled platform air from escaping down the tunnels.

Hot temperatures on subway platforms may provide a reason for the MTA to consider exploring the possibility of installing platform screen doors, and perhaps, air conditioning in the long term.  For the moment the best advice is to keep cool any way you can and keep in mind that the next air conditioned car will be there soon.

Taxis, Taxes, and Monorail. The NYC Mayoral Transportation Forum


Earlier today, UTRC hosted a panel discussion to ask mayoral candidates about their transportation policies. In attendance was Sal Alabanese, John Liu, Bill Thompson, and Anthony Weiner on the Democratic panel (Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio were no shows),

Democratic Mayoral Candidates: Sal Albanese, John Liu, Bill Thompson, and Anthony Weiner (left to right)

and Adolfo Carrión, John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota, and George McDonald on the Republican / Independent panel.

Republican and Independent Mayoral Candidates: Adolfo Carrión, John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota, and George McDonald (left to right)

Here were some the highlights:

  1. Most candidates support expanding SelectBusService and Express Bus Service in the outer boroughs to provide transit to underserved areas; however none mentioned creating exclusive busways to improve this service.
  2. Anthony Weiner and Paul Steely White (of Transportation Alternatives) got into a friendly debate about cycling in the city. After Weiner mocked the polls indicating support for cycling, White said that bicycles poll higher than the mayoral candidates in front of him.  
  3. Sal Albanese and Joe Lhota both explicitly support the city investing in mass transit infrastructure. Lhota believes that the N/R trains should be extended to Staten Island.
  4. Joe Lhota was the only candidate to bring other transit modes into the discussion, such as Light Rail on Staten Island’s Northern and Western shores. He also supports construction Metro North Railroad stations at Co-Op City and Parkchester.
  5. John Catsimatidis said that another subway line would never be built in our lifetime, but supports constructing “aboveways” (monorails) throughout the city.
  6. The Democratic candidates disapprove of the “Taxi of the Future.”
  7. Bill Thompson supports a commuter tax, but almost all of the other candidates believe that it is unattainable.
  8. Sal Alabanese believes that New York City Transit should be under city control. Anthony Weiner said that the city needs more control of the MTA board.
  9. There was a lot of discussion of tolling in the city, with candidates divided about additional tolls in the city, particularly on the East River bridges.
  10. Anthony Weiner noted that the city pays $7000 per student that takes a school bus. While candidates disagreed about labor costs, many mentioned that inefficient routing was a large reason for the high costs of school buses.

Democratic Mayoral Candidate Anthony Weiner fields questions from the press after the panel.

Short Talks, Big Ideas: Recap


Last night’s Short Talks, Big Ideas event showed us how people are using data, how agencies can absorb public input, and how we should be approaching various modes of transport in the future.

Thanks to the numerous attendees, and our fantastic presenters:
Guillaume Charny-Brunet, FaberNovel, 1.6 Billion Rides: A story of NYC subways, big data and YOU!
Jeff Ferzoco, Owner, Jeff Ferzoco Design and Senior Fellow, RPA, Mapping innovation: The line is the journey
Stephanie Camay, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Public involvement in transportation projects
Bob Leonard, EarthGarage, Standardizing sustainable personal vehicles
Adam Zaranko, NYC Economic Development Corporation, East River Ferry Service
Chris Whong, NYU Wagner, Baltimore Circulatorbuddy
Alexis Perrotta, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Can social fares improve NYCT?
Anthony Townsend, NYU Wagner, New Data for Bicycling Research

Check out the event video here and the pics below: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/31217383

We’ll see you in the Fall with our next iteration of Short Talks, Big Ideas. If you have speaker suggestions for our next Short Talks, Big Ideas event, please get in touch.

Until then, please join us on April 20th for the Rethinking Regulation Design Challenge on April 20th.

Don’t-Miss Events in April


We have a fantastic set of events slated for April at the NYU Rudin Center:

April 9th (morning): Local Innovations in Bus Rapid Transit: A Panel Discussion – This panel will focus on innovative bus planning in the New York Metro area, and the unique challenges it presents to both policy makers and citizens.

April 9th (evening): Short Talks, Big Ideas: Transportation Innovations – Join the NYU Rudin Center for this high-energy series of short talks about how we’re using, improving and thinking about the future of transportation.

POSTPONED UNTIL FALL April 10th: Climate-Proofing Connectivity: The Future of New York’s Links to the Northeast Corridor – This symposium will convene experts on climate change, next-generation aviation, and high-speed rail planning to explore how New York’s external transportation connections can adapt to climate change in the coming decades to provide secure, resilient and sustainable economic lifelines in the face of an uncertain future.

April 20th: Rethinking Regulation Design ChallengeThis challenge is about bringing stakeholders to the table to develop innovative, realistic, and implementable solutions to help address the problems government regulators face when monitoring illegal apartment conversions in NYC, and non-compliant “Chinatown” motorcoach companies. (with NYU Wagner and OpenPlans)

All events are free and open to the public. Click on the event titles to register. See you in April!

Super-Commuting vs. Mega-Commuting


Carson Qing & Sarah Kaufman

Earlier this week, The U.S. Census released a report announcing the proliferation of “mega-commuters,” 600,000 Americans who travel at least 90 minutes and 50 miles each way. It’s slightly different from the “super-commuters” we at the NYU Rudin Center defined last year, who are individuals who work in one county (usually of a major metropolitan area), but live in another, usually commuting more than 90 miles each way.

The most pressing difference between the terms “mega-commuter” and “super-commuter” is that the former focuses on the individuals traveling long distances regularly to their workplaces, while the latter also includes people who make these journeys once or twice or week, at most. These long-distance, low-frequency super-commuters may travel to the office only once or twice per week at most, or maintain similarly unconventional schedules. Our definition of a super-commuter, estimated to be 3% to 10% of the workforce depending on the city, includes both “mega-commuters” and low-frequency, long-distance commuters who were not captured in the mega-commuter definition. The graphic below illustrates the differences between these two types of super-commuters in their travel behavior.

 

The U.S. Census Bureau provides two data sources to define origins and destinations of commuter flows. To define the mega-commuter, the Census Bureau used American Community Survey (ACS), which measures data from only 7.5% of the working population, then extrapolates the data for a larger population based from that sample. But the Census Bureau’s OnTheMap tool (OTM), used in our super-commuter report last year, extracts employment data directly from state employment insurance records and represents coverage of nearly all employees and their work locations, with the exception of self-employed individuals. Because of this difference between ACS and OTM, the “mega-commuter” figure is most likely an undercount of long-distance commuters.

Using OTM, we found nearly 650,000 long-distance commuters in the top five U.S. super-commuting metropolitan areas who commute to the core county from a county outside the metropolitan area. OTM is more successful at capturing low-frequency commuting trips than the ACS, because the ACS’s line of questioning focuses on frequent trip-making, asking respondents where did they work for the majority of the past week and how did they travel to work, and assumes that the sample data applies to a larger population[1]. Low-frequency commuters are coded as “working from home” in the ACS, even though in reality their link to the workplace is not severed: the trips are made less frequently, due to the impediments of travel time, distance, and cost.

The rise of “tele-commuters,” who now represent 10% of the total workforce (or in the case of Aetna, 47% of its workforce, up from 9% in 2005[2]), and low-frequency, long-distance commuting has created a fundamental shift in the way people travel between home and work. The traditional “Journey to Work” survey methodology used in the ACS does not fully capture new patterns of commuting or the growing distances between home and work locations in metropolitan regions. It neglects the large and growing number of Americans who do not travel exclusively between home and work on a regular basis. Thus, transportation planners and researchers should not overly rely on the “Journey to Work” methodology to analyze and understand transportation flows: a more nuanced data source that captures a greater variety of trip purposes is increasingly necessary to analyze travel behavior in this new era of commuting.


[1] Spear, Bruce. “Improving Employment Data for Transportation Planning.” Cambridge Systematics. September 2011. http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/docs/NCHRP08-36(98)_FR.pdf

[2] Miller, C. & Rampbell, C. “Yahoo Orders Home Workers Back to the Office.” The New York Times. 25 February 2013.

Smart Transportation and Sustainability


Rudin Research Associate Sarah Kaufman spoke at yesterday’s Transportation Equity Conference in Albany to discuss the role of smart transportation in environmental sustainability. The topic is more complex than it seems: as driving becomes easier with tools like autonomous cars, traffic sensing and self-aware parking spots, how can we continue to reduce car use, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions? In the United States, commutes are growing ever-longer, as the NYU Rudin Center showed with our Super-Commuter report last year: fast-growing numbers of Americans are traveling more than 90 minutes or 90 miles each way, usually by car.

We can use technology to make transit more enticing:

- Open data lets travelers see schedules before they reach a station

- Social media informs them of delays, so they can re-route

- Open source planning tools, like NYC DOT’s Fourth Avenue project, give travelers a say in future developments

- Advanced fare payment systems, like MBTA’s mobile payments, make it easy to board even when the right fare is unavailable

– Walkability measures, like those provided by Walkscore, allow us to choose our housing locations by the ability to run errands on foot or use transit for a commute, saving money and waistlines.

These are just some basic tools to make transit a more pleasurable and efficient experience (several, like augmented reality, are on the horizon, and will shift our mobility patterns even further). For environmental and economic needs, these foundational technologies must be in place to bring riders over to transit and mitigate automobile dependence.

Event Recap: NY Open Transportation Data Meetup


Last night, the NYU Rudin Center co-organized the kickoff meeting of the NY Open Transportation Data Meetup group, with Noel Hidalgo of Code for America and Cate Contino of Straphangers Campaign. The event was held at the great ThoughtWorks space. Presentations by Neil Freeman of NYC DOT and Mike Frumin of MTA showed the variety of data sets currently available.

The event also featured community announcements by NYU Wagner students promoting an upcoming design challenge surrounding Chinatown Bus regulations, Frank Hebbert of OpenPlans showcasing the IfWeKnew tool, and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA previewing its upcoming report on data visualizations.

The group also discussed its wishlist for future data sets and projects, which will be posted on the group’s site shortly.

Hope to see you at the next event!

Manhattan Commuting Trends: An In-Depth Look


Carson Qing

Earlier this week, we discussed the unique patterns of employment “re-centralization” that the New York City metropolitan area experienced over the past decade. Now, we focus on the region’s core, Manhattan, and where its commuters are coming from. A detailed analysis, building on last year’s report describing trends in commuting among Manhattan’s workforce, reveals that most of the growth in Manhattan commuting has originated from waterfront neighborhoods in Jersey City, Hoboken, and Brooklyn, areas that experienced significant high-density residential development in recent years.

Using the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics dataset from the U.S. Census Bureau, I identified specific towns and neighborhoods (defined as ZIP codes) that have the greatest increase in commuters to Manhattan. The interactive map below shows areas of residence with growth and declines in Manhattan commuters from 2002 to 2010 in absolute numbers. Zip codes shaded as blue represent a decrease or no difference in commuters to Manhattan. Darker shades of red indicate greater increases in commuters to Manhattan from that zip code. Click around to see the figures at a neighborhood level.

These numbers indicate substantial increases in Manhattan work trips originating from Northern Brooklyn, Western Queens, Jersey City and Hoboken, the South Bronx and Staten Island. The five neighborhoods with the greatest increase in Manhattan commuters were Williamsburg (+5,405), the Paulus Hook section of Jersey City (+4,262), Downtown Brooklyn (+3,598), Williamsburg/Bedford-Stuyvesant (+3,373), and Greenpoint (+3,139), all consisting of neighborhoods situated along either the Hudson or East River waterfronts. Areas that saw declines in commuters to Manhattan were largely in the northern and eastern suburbs, consisting of neighborhoods in eastern Queens and Westchester, Rockland, and Nassau counties.

High-density residential developments along the waterfronts in New Jersey, Brooklyn and Queens, paired with the expected increase in Manhattan-bound commutes from those neighborhoods, indicate that there are significant opportunities for expansion in ferry services in New York City. The East River Ferry that connects the neighborhoods of Downtown Brooklyn/DUMBO, Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Long Island City with the Midtown East and Lower Manhattan business districts has been far more successful than originally anticipated during the first year of its 3-year pilot service, carrying more than 1.6 million passengers (300,000 more than expected). A long-term extension and expansion of ferry services on the East River should be strongly considered as a strategy to relieve rush hour crowding on subway lines such as the L and 7 lines and provide a more convenient travel alternative.

The growth in Manhattan commuting to from the west in suburban New Jersey is not limited to communities with “one-seat” rides into Manhattan where no transfers are required to get in. Communities in Bergen and Passaic Counties along the Main-Bergen and the Pascack Valley rail lines, where Manhattan-bound rail trips require transfers at either Secaucus Junction or Hoboken to enter Manhattan, have also seen significant increases in commuters to Manhattan: these include towns such as Fair Lawn (+39% increase), Paramus (+30%), and Lodi (+47%). Workers traveling to Manhattan from those areas are much more dependent on the regional express bus system operated by NJ Transit and private companies to commute into Manhattan, and will continue to be dependent due to the cancellation of the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) rail infrastructure project in 2010. Making the region’s system of commuter buses run more efficiently, whether by creating additional capacity at the Port Authority Bus Terminal or providing an express bus lane in the Lincoln Tunnel during evening rush hour, should help accommodate this growth in commuters from suburban New Jersey and sustain the region’s economic productivity and competitiveness in the 21st century.

 

The State of Employment Decentralization in Major American Cities


Carson Qing

Since the mid-20th century, employers have followed its employees to the suburbs, and have adapted the workplace to fit their employees’ commuting needs, leading to the rise of the “corporate park” and the “edge city.” Some scholars have observed that in the 2000s, a dramatic shift has occurred as cities were again attracting the jobs that left in earlier decades, as employers respond to changing preferences among younger workers who desire a more urban lifestyle. Others contend that such a conclusion is premature, and that employment decentralization, also known as “job sprawl,” still occurs, as there is still high demand for suburban living. Using data on private sector employment from the Census Bureau’s Local Employment Dynamics, I tried to determine if the pattern of employment distribution across metropolitan areas had truly shifted in the past decade, and based on my findings, it seems that job distribution and movement vary by region, although generally, the trends remain slightly in favor of continued employment decentralization in major U.S. metro regions.

Metro regions with an increase in the share of its workforce employed clustered within 5 miles of the Central Business District were:

  1. San Francisco: +1.5%
  2. New York: +1.3%
  3. Detroit: +0.8%
  4. Chicago +0.2%
  5. Philadelphia +0.1%

The above cities are all older designs, where most development occurred early in the 20th century, in the pre-automobile era. Metro regions with the greatest increase in the share of its workforce employed within 20 – 50 miles of the CBD (or, “job sprawl” tendencies), were:

  1. Atlanta: +4.5%
  2. Dallas: +2.9%
  3. Houston: +2.6%

These cities are generally sprawling, Sun Belt areas that have experienced much of its growth during the late 20th century. After accounting for job trends based on distances from each region’s CBD, I observed the following patterns of employment growth (see methodology below for more detail):

Jobs in New York and San Francisco are increasingly concentrated in their urban core. In these cities, employment is no longer de-centralizing, but is re-centralizing. Both cities have a dense and diverse urban core that offer distinctive amenities and advantages for workers and employers, which could be a major driver of these recent trends.

A group of cities had an increasing share of jobs in both its urban core and its exurban fringes, but a smaller share in the “core-periphery” area: the peripheral areas of the primary city, and inner-ring suburbs that border the city. These cities exhibit a “U-shaped” relationship between the increase in the share of jobs in a given zone and the distance from the center city. One-third of the metro areas sampled exhibited this spatial pattern of job growth, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit, and St. Louis.

In Houston and Dallas, employment decentralization has been sustained. Areas further from the city are capturing a greater share of the region’s jobs. This trend resembles the traditional pattern of late-20th century employment decentralization.

In general, employment decentralization has been sustained in the largest metro regions in the United States since 2002, but mostly at the expense of the “in-between” zones situated within 5 to 10 miles of the CBD, rather than the CBD itself. These generalized job growth trends show that the past decade was a period of deepening spatial divisions within U.S. cities. Overall, diverging demographic preferences and market forces are leading to an unconventional pattern of employment distribution, one that places the high-density urban core and the low-density suburban fringes at a distinct advantage over the medium-density urban periphery and inner-ring suburbs, locations that typically do not offer the agglomeration advantages of the central city, nor the accessibility advantages of the exurban fringes.

 

Methodology:

This analysis divided the 15 largest metro regions (defined as all census tracts within 50 miles of the primary city’s CBD) into 4 zones of analysis, based on distance from the city center. After calculating job growth for each of the zones and for each metro region, the data was smoothed to reflect a “best-fit” trendline. A composite average of the job growth data was also obtained and fitted to a trendline (highlighted by the red curve above). The composite average trend indicates that regional trends generally favor sustained employment decentralization, but there are distinctive variations across metro regions and the spatial patterns are more complex than anticipated.

The fitted trendlines of New York and San Francisco are negatively sloped (highlighted in yellow), which indicates that recent job growth and distance from the city center appear to be inversely related and have a highly linear pattern.

The fitted trendlines of Houston and Dallas are positively sloped (highlighted in blue), indicating that areas further from the city are capturing a greater share of the region’s jobs.