Research Projects

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Research Projects

STATUS: Complete YEAR: 2016 TOPIC AREA: Public transit, land use, and urban mobility CENTER: METRANS UTC

Innovation on Job Accessibility with General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) Data

Project Summary

Funding Source


Total Project Cost


Agency ID or Contract Number


Start and End Dates

1/1/17 to 6/30/18

Brief Description of
Research Project

Physical access to economic opportunity is still a factor dominated by geography. There is an established scholarly literature that finds that job growth often happens in places away from the populations that need the new jobs : also known as spatial mismatch. We argue that public transportation could and should play a role in mitigating that. Currently, cars are the primary barrier to entry in bridging that gap for job seekers in metropolitan areas. Blumenberg (2004) measured jobs that could be reached from low income neighborhoods in Los Angeles in 30-minute commutes by car and by transit, and found that cars provided access to an order of magnitude larger number of jobs than transit access. Nationally, the majority of commutes to work via public transportation requires over 45 minutes, which is significantly more than cars (U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey 2010-2014).


The potential of transit-oriented development has spurred much activism and policy initiatives, federally and locally, to address equity concerns in low-income and highly-impacted neighborhoods. While there exists much political will, especially in places like Los Angeles, to extend transit to high-need areas, there is a dearth of accessible measures to help understand who will benefit and how. The existing method of using complex, link level agency data on transit routes has created an accessibility debate that allows few opportunities for participants and even agencies to effectively measure how different policies will or will not change the geography of access to opportunity. Therefore, questions of environmental justice and equity are prominently debated without much definitive evidence about how changes in transit operations relate to the geography of economic opportunity.


This study extends the research on the geography of opportunity in two important ways. First, we use a new open data tool, General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data, to dynamically analyze travel times that exist within public transit networks. These new data are only beginning to be used by practitioners and some researchers. We are then able to link these data to job sub-centers across the Los Angeles metropolitan area using Census tract data to determine more precisely what is the accessibility of jobs for individuals in high poverty neighborhoods (in the past we have focused on youth).


We can further distinguish job clusters by industry type to highlight if there are differences in accessibility between emerging economy jobs in the information technology (IT) sector and the general job market. Finally, we can create transit access measures that can be widely used and rapidly deployed in a broad range of contexts. We plan to make these measures available in an online environment (i.e. web maps) as a proof-of-concept based on the Los Angeles area.



Gary Painter
Professor, Sol Price School of Public Policy
635 W. Downey Way, VPD 207
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3331
United States
[email protected]


Marlon Boarnet
Senior Associate Dean, Academic Affairs; Professor & Director of Graduate Programs in Urban Planning, Sol Price School of Public Policy
650 Childs Way
Ralph and Goldy Lewis Hall (RGL) 301CLos Angeles, CA 90089-0626
United States
[email protected]