Transit delivers access

Transit access matters to the significant share of workers and customers without a personal vehicle

Although the region’s dominant form of transportation is the personal vehicle, a significant portion of the labor pool and customer base does not have regular access to a car. Table 1 shows that 13 percent of all households in the region do not own a car. Considering that 71 percent of households have more than one adult, it’s significant that a full quarter of the region’s households only have one car and are further than a half mile from rail transit. What’s more, six percent of households, representing more than half a million people, have no personal vehicle and are more than one-half mile from rapid rail transit. These households contain customers and employees that can more fully participate in the economy with access to high-quality transit.

Table 1: Many are far from rail without a car

Percent of all households by proximity to rail and number of available vehicles (Source: ACS 2016)
Households by number of cars
Rail proximity All HHs None One Two Three or more
More than 1/2 mile 75% 6% 25% 30% 14%
1/4 to 1/2 mile 16% 4% 7% 4% 1%
1/4 mile or less
10% 3% 4% 2% 1%
Total 100% 13% 36% 36% 16%

Similarly, Table 2 shows that about eight percent of the region’s households have one or zero cars and low to moderately low transit access, as measured by The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) transit availability index (1=low/no transit access). Most of these places have no rail service and infrequent bus service.[1]

Table 2: Some have no car and no transit

Percent of all households by transit availability index and number of available vehicles (Source: ACS 2016, CMAP)
Households by number of cars
Transit availability index All HHs None One Two Three or more
1 9% 0% 2% 4% 2%
2 19% 1% 5% 9% 4%
3 18% 1% 6% 8% 3%
4 37% 5% 15% 12% 5%
5 17% 6% 8% 3% 1%
Total 100% 13% 36%
36% 16%

Table 3 takes a more nuanced look at vehicle availability by comparing the number of adults in a household to the number of cars available. Orange cells represent households that have more adults than cars, and blue cells represent the opposite. We know that carpooling rates are very low in the region, so a very large number of people must rely on transportation other than a personal vehicle for their daily trips based on these data. Including all households in the 7-county region where adults outnumber available cars, there are over 2.6 million people “unmatched” to a personal vehicle. That represents about 40 percent of the adult population, all of whom are potential customers, employees, and transit riders.

Table 3: Unmet demand for transportation

Household count by size and vehicle ownership (Source: ACS 2016)
Number of cars
0 1 2 3 4+
of adults
1 240,858 564,021 65,155 8,361 3,434
2 84,441 290,328 467,845 67,331
3 32,513 118,808 201,061 110,553 22,697
4+ 36,569 133,839
360,583 161,357 98,130
  1. Transit Availability Index

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