The Difficulty of Mapping Transit ‘Deserts’

The *Chicago Tribune* reports that Chicago is not on pace to meet its goal of doubling transit ridership by 2040. A little early to call things, sure, but the fact is the transit network isn’t connecting workers with jobs. The *Tribune* says that “most jobs in the region can’t be reached in a 90-minute commute” (and Brookings recently quantified “most” at a more precise 77 percent). According to a report drafted for a regional transit task force, Chicago suffers from too many “transit deserts”: The Chicago area’s mass transit agencies are doing a poor job of serving the commuting needs of the region — portions of which are “transit deserts” — while planning efforts are haphazard, a new report says. A transit “desert” is a relatively new concept, defined as an urban area full of transit-dependent people (usually city residents who are low-income, elderly, disabled, or all of the above) but lacking sufficient transit service. The report mentioned by the *Tribune*doesn’t identify the exact transit deserts in Chicago, saying only that the term applies to “significant portions” of the metro area. Perhaps the final report, due at the end of the March, will be more precise. Or perhaps precision here is just too difficult a task. As it happens, a pair of transport scholars recently tried to pinpoint Chicago’s deserts — and had a tough time of it. Using GIS, the duo merged demographic data with transit system data to locate potential deserts in the city (as well as those in Charlotte, Portland, and Cincinnati). The idea was to find specific blocks where high transit demand among dependent riders overlapped with a low supply of transit service. The biggest service gaps they found were in the neighborhoods of Edgewater Beach (well north of the city center), and West Loop and Near North (both downtown). read the full article: