Knox public transit ranks low in Brookings study

kat1_MP_10906.JPGNo car? Good luck getting to work in metro Knoxville. When it comes to connecting people without cars to job opportunities, Knoxville has one of the weakest public transit systems in the country, according to a new study by the Brookings Institution.

Of the 100 largest metros, Knoxville ranks 98 in coverage rate, or the percentage of households without a personal vehicle – zero-vehicle households – that have access to public transportation, Brookings reports.

Only Jackson, Miss. (99) and Greeneville, S.C. (100) rank lower in the think tank’s study.

Tennessee’s other large metros all rank higher than Knoxville. Memphis has the best coverage rate ranking at 62. Nashville is 94 and Chattanooga is 96.

Nationwide, 700,000 American households, about 9 percent, “face a daily challenge getting to work or to stores; because they have no car and cannot reach their local transit system,” Brookings said in a news release.

Knoxville’s zero-vehicle population is relatively small – only 5.6 percent of all metro area households. And nearly 57 percent are low-income.

However, that’s still 16,607 households, and almost half do not have access to some sort of public transit, Brookings reports.

Knoxville fares somewhat better in what Brookings calls the job access rate, or the percentage of metro area jobs that zero-vehicle households can reach within 90 minutes via public transit. Knoxville ranks 76 with 29.1 percent of area jobs reachable in 90 minutes.

It’s probably not surprising, that the biggest cities provide the best public transportation service for households without cars. Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Miami have the highest coverage rates, Brookings reports.

Nationwide, more than 90 percent of zero-vehicle households have access to public transportation and the typical household can reach more than 40 percent of the jobs in its metro area, Brookings reports.

“We need to make sure there are more transportation options for all households but especially for those low-income groups who are more economically constrained, cannot afford cars, and have no way to access transit,” said Adie Tomer, Senior Research Analyst and author of the report.

“If this country is to put Americans back to work and become more productive and more competitive in the global economy, the transit system has to do a better job of carrying us to our places of employment.”
Brookings is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC.

Read the Brookings report here: Transit Access and Zero-Vehicle Households

Photo: News Sentinel file