Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wealthy transit riders by county

Since the distribution of incomes seems to flatten out across a region - or at least, to reach a maximum of about 1 - it seems that the diversity happens at the county level. Accordingly, I tabulated a list of the counties with the highest ratios of transit incomes to driver incomes:

CountyDrove alone median earningsPublic transportation median earningsPublic Transportation earnings margin of errorTransit/ Drove Earnings RatioTransit - drove / error
St. Lawrence County, New York31,70672,13035,9642.271.12
Cherokee County, Georgia38,14085,40345,1182.231.05
Kane County, Illinois35,20275,13328,6792.131.39
Litchfield County, Connecticut41,54082,43128,0641.991.46
Stafford County, Virginia44,68686,93830,6861.951.38
DuPage County, Illinois40,47375,50011,4041.863.07
McHenry County, Illinois40,70675,00996671.843.55
Bristol County, Massachusetts36,89567,92213,4501.842.31
Spotsylvania County, Virginia40,72373,57212,0711.812.72
Ulster County, New York35,28960,74810,6581.722.39

There are some surprises here. What's going on in Saint Lawrence County, way up by the Canadian border? Is it something like we saw in Idaho Falls? I'm guessing that it's faculty commuting to SUNY Potsdam or Clarkson University. In any case, there are only 92 transit riders in the county, so maybe one of them can email me.

CountyWorkforcePublic TransportationPublic Transportation Mode ShareMean Drive TimeMean Transit TimeTransit / Drive time ratio
St. Lawrence County, New York44,683820.18%
Cherokee County, Georgia101,7954570.45%#N/A#N/A#N/A
Kane County, Illinois235,11471603.05%27.9802.873
Litchfield County, Connecticut95,15211371.19%27.361.52.257
Stafford County, Virginia65,29424203.71%#N/A#N/A#N/A
DuPage County, Illinois454,59830,2226.65%
McHenry County, Illinois149,92941152.74%32.882.32.513
Bristol County, Massachusetts248,43752822.13%25.566.32.603
Spotsylvania County, Virginia58,41418033.09%#N/A#N/A#N/A
Ulster County, New York81,87814041.71%#N/A#N/A#N/A

The case of Cherokee County, Georgia, is more straightforward. Just about all 457 of them pay $125 a month to ride an express bus into Atlanta several times a week. A massive HOV/BRT plan was shelved in 2009.

Litchfield County, Connecticut is the same as the Torrington Micropolitan Statistical Area discussed in my earlier post, and Ulster County, NY is the same as the Kingston ╬╝SA. The Illinois counties of Kane, DuPage and McHenry are all suburbs of Chicago reachable by Metra. Stafford and Spotsylvania counties in Virginia are southern suburbs of Washington, DC served by Virginia Railway Express, and Bristol County, Massachusetts is a suburb of Boston served by the MBTA commuter rail.

The 39 counties with an earnings ratio greater than 1 include suburbs of just about every metro area in the country: Fort Bend, TX (Houston, 1.71), Howard, MD (Baltimore, 1.69), Kitsap, WA (Seattle, 1.50), Chester, PA (Philadelphia, 1.39), Dakota, MN (Minneapolis-St. Paul, 1.28).

One other thing: of course you don't want your county to have too low an earnings ratio, because that means that all the poor people are being pushed onto transit. On the other hand, you don't want it too high either, because too many poor people driving means your local transit system sucks. A ratio of 1 is ideal; that's what you'd get if everyone took transit. Broadly speaking, it seems like there's an acceptable range from 0.698 (Multnomah County) to 1.25 (Bergen County), including those closest to 1, Norfolk County and Middlesex County, Massachusetts.


EngineerScotty said...

Regarding Kitsap County, WA: It's located across the Puget Sound from Seattle, and access to Seattle either requires a long drive down to Tacoma to cross the Narrows Bridge and then back up I-5, or a ferry crossing. And if the ferry crossing counts as public transit (keeping in mind, that automobiles may cross on the ferries as well as bikes and pedestrians), that might explain why.

EngineerScotty said...

More to the point: Does it count as a "use of public transit" if a guy drives his car onto the boat in Bremerton, has a cup of coffee in the cabin while the ferry crosses the Sound, and then drives off the boat into downtown Seattle?