If one were to view a community as a business, a new study shows that planned public transportation investments will yield a two-to-one return while helping to generate income for local businesses, its workers and neighborhoods. In fact, this investment will yield more than $174 billion in business sales in the three cites examined in a new study commissioned by the American Public Transportation Association called "Public Transportation's Role in the Knowledge Economy."
The study authors examined the emerging tech sectors in Silicon Beach, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and Durham, N.C. and looked at public transportation's role in enhancing access to employees and promoting entrepreneurial infrastructure. The authors noted in this research that communities across America are creating "Innovation Districts," which are areas that include business incubators, anchor institutions and startups.
The study emphasizes that these districts are becoming an important engine of U.S. economic growth. These Innovation Districts require both robust business and transportation infrastructure to be sustained over the long-term.
"Public transportation is the catalyst that attracts knowledge workers who show a preference to be connected with multiple transportation options to high-growth business centers," said APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall. "It allows these Innovation Districts to create dense business infrastructure that preserves key community benefits while mitigating congestion issues and providing businesses greater access to labor."
APTA designed the study and commissioned the Economic Development Research Group to conduct the research. The study looks at the economic impact of public transportation in select regions and does a deeper dive into how public transit supports emerging tech scenes in three areas: Silicon Beach in Southern California, the Historic Technology District in Austin, Texas; and the Research Triangle in North Carolina. According to the analyisis, if the three cities' long-range transportation plans are fully implemented by 2035, the transportation savings and accompanying productivity enhancement will generate:
- More than $174 billion of cumulative business sales.
- $76.1 billion in wage income.
- $106.5 billion in additional gross domestic product (GDP) for the U.S. economy.
"Ultimately investment in local public transit helps generates new economic activity and yields a huge profit to local companies in the area," said APTA President/CEO Michael Melaniphy. "It also provides tremendous benefits for the entire community, even after subtracting the cost of the ongoing investment in the local public transit system.
"This data shows how use of public transportation provides an alternative to a car dependent congested network in these tech corridors and it provides savings to both businesses and households as a result from reducing workers out-of-pocket travel costs and travel time," Melaniphy added. "Public transportation relieves pressure on the road system — whether you use public transit or not. It also helps improve the movement of goods, and most importantly the investment helps grow the community."