NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Which Cities Are Most Accessible?

September 9, 2014

Economists have found that cities with transport systems which allow workers to reach their places of employment within 30 minutes tend to perform better economically than their peers.  As such, which of the globe's metropolitan areas outperform others in terms of congestion and travel time? According to Wendell Cox, NCPA senior fellow, American cities tend to do better than their foreign counterparts:

  • A study by David Levinson of the University of Minnesota determined the average employee can reach two-thirds of jobs in major metropolitan areas in the United States within a half hour.
  • The average one-way commute in American cities with more than 5 million residents is 29 minutes, shorter than the average 32 minutes in Western Europe, 33 minutes in Canada and 42 minutes in East Asia.
  • Of cities with more than 10 million inhabitants, Los Angeles has the shortest travel time: 27 minutes. Travel time in Paris and New York is 34 minutes, while it takes 50 minutes to commute in Tokyo.
  • Of all cities in the United States with populations between 5 and 10 million, Dallas-Fort Worth has the shortest work travel time of just 26 minutes. Hong Kong, on the other hand, has an average travel time of 46 minutes.

Why do American cities tend to be more accessible? Because more residents have automobile access, says Cox, and cars are much faster than alternative modes of transportation. Additionally, employment within American cities tends to be relatively decentralized -- only 8 percent of jobs in a major city are actually located within the city's downtown area.

Accessibility has an impact beyond mere convenience, explains Cox. When more people have access to more employment opportunities, they have higher incomes and standards of living.

Source: Wendell Cox, "America's Accessible Cities," Huffington Post, September 4, 2014. 


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