Friday, January 20, 2017

Absolute vs. Relative

As discussed many times previously, part of Rochester's charm is found in its tendency toward self-deprecation.  But as also mentioned several times, Rochesterians often find themselves on a slippery slope between humorous self-deprecation and damaging self-hatred.  This latter entity is defined by the feeling that our problems are unique (i.e. no other city in the world could possibly have the same issues.) This thought process clouds our local dialogue on many issues such as poverty, crime, education, transportation, etc.

Recently, the Democrat and Chronicle published an interesting article on the role of transportation (or lack thereof) in maintaining urban poverty.  The article addresses the important fact that Rochester has an overrepresentation of public transportation commutes greater than one hour (one way), markedly penalizing those living in or near poverty.  The author addresses the irony of this quandary in a region that prides itself on short commutes.  The fitting conclusion of the piece is that the location of jobs and public transportation infrastructure both need to improve.

Yet prior to taking the next step and concluding how horrible Rochester is compared to other cities, it is worth looking at public transportation statistics in relative terms rather than absolute terms.  Exactly how does Rochester compare to other locations with regards to public transit commute times?

In Rochester, as per the Census Bureau's 2014 one-year American Community Survey, the average commute time for transit users was 40.2 minutes.  This transit commute time happened to be lower than that in San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, Jersey City, Philadelphia, Oakland, Portland (OR), Newark (NJ), Denver, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Santa Ana (CA), Houston, and Cleveland.  What do these 15 cities have in common? They were recently ranked among the top 25 best cities for public transportation.

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