The Changing Spatial Location of Low-Wage Work and Workers in California: Implications for Transit Ridership

Research Lead: Evelyn Blumenberg

University: UCLA

Problem Statement: In many U.S. metropolitan areas, housing costs have skyrocketed in recent years relative to average incomes. This pattern is certainly the case in California, where more than half (52%) of renters are cost burdened—defined as having housing costs of more than 30% of household income—compared to 46% of U.S. renters. A worsening shortage of affordable housing may push households away from job-rich cities and expensive neighborhoods into outlying areas, where housing is cheaper but jobs are more distant. Median commute distances in California have in fact lengthened in recent years, growing from 12.5 miles in 2002 to 14.2 miles in 2015. Among other consequences, pre-pandemic transit ridership in some areas of the state fell in part because transit is less competitive for these lengthening trips. Jobs-housing balance—measured as the number of jobs relative to the number of workers in an area—may influence residential location. Therefore, improvements in the proximity of workers to jobs can contribute to shorter commutes, less vehicle travel and, potentially, greater use of modes other than driving.

Project Description: The research team used data from the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Origin-Destination Employment Statistics to examine whether California cities have become more or less “self-contained” over time with respect to the location of employed residents relative to their jobs. The analysis specifically focuses on the role of housing costs and supply in explaining this trend.

Status: Completed

Budget: $60,000

Project Partner(s): Metropolitan Transportation Commission

Policy Brief(s):
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