Source: Christina Stacy, Alena Stern, Kristin Blagg, Yipeng Su, Eleanor Noble, Macy Rainer, and Richard Ezike, Urban Institute, October 6, 2020
All people need high-quality, reliable, and safe transportation to reach jobs, resources, and services. But that kind of transportation is not equally accessible to all.
In many cities, white, highly educated, and high-income residents have greater access to public transportation, and wealth differences by race and ethnicity make it easier for white residents to purchase a car, allowing for increased access to jobs. Public transit that is inaccessible for elderly people and people with disabilities can leave transit-dependent residents stranded. And a lack of transit options, particularly at off-peak hours, means that people who work irregular schedules often have no safe or affordable way to get to work.
Policymakers can reduce disparities in access to opportunity through targeted investments, but many decisionmakers lack clear definitions and measures of equity needed to make these choices. To inform stakeholders making transportation decisions, we created a set of metrics analyzing transportation equity for neighborhoods — which we approximate with census block groups — within four metropolitan regions: Baltimore, Maryland; Lansing, Michigan; Nashville, Tennessee; and Seattle, Washington. These regions represent four distinct types in terms of sprawl, fiscal health, transportation infrastructure, population growth, and housing costs.
For each, we calculated the time it takes residents across the metro area to get to opportunities such as jobs, schools, libraries, and hospitals via both public transit and automobile, and we used those times to create an access to opportunity measure. With these new metrics, we’ve highlighted disparities in access to jobs and analyzed how these opportunities differ by race and ethnicity and for night-shift workers.
Source: Christopher R. Knittel, Bora Ozaltun, NBER Working Paper No. 27391, June 2020
From the abstract:
We correlate county-level COVID-19 death rates with key variables using both linear regression and negative binomial mixed models, although we focus on linear regression models. We include four sets of variables: socio-economic variables, county-level health variables, modes of commuting, and climate and pollution patterns. Our analysis studies daily death rates from April 4, 2020 to May 27, 2020. We estimate correlation patterns both across states, as well as within states. For both models, we find higher shares of African American residents in the county are correlated with higher death rates. However, when we restrict ourselves to correlation patterns within a given state, the statistical significance of the correlation of death rates with the share of African Americans, while remaining positive, wanes. We find similar results for the share of elderly in the county. We find that higher amounts of commuting via public transportation, relative to telecommuting, is correlated with higher death rates. The correlation between driving into work, relative to telecommuting, and death rates is also positive across both models, but statistically significant only when we look across states and counties. We also find that a higher share of people not working, and thus not commuting either because they are elderly, children or unemployed, is correlated with higher death rates. Counties with higher home values, higher summer temperatures, and lower winter temperatures have higher death rates. Contrary to past work, we do not find a correlation between pollution and death rates. Also importantly, we do not find that death rates are correlated with obesity rates, ICU beds per capita, or poverty rates. Finally, our model that looks within states yields estimates of how a given state’s death rate compares to other states after controlling for the variables included in our model; this may be interpreted as a measure of how states are doing relative to others. We find that death rates in the Northeast are substantially higher compared to other states, even when we control for the four sets of variables above. Death rates are also statistically significantly higher in Michigan, Louisiana, Iowa, Indiana, and Colorado. California’s death rate is the lowest across all states.
Source: John McLaren, NBER Working Paper No. 27407, June 2020
From the abstract:
This note seeks the socioeconomic roots of racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality, using county-level mortality, economic, and demographic data from 3,140 counties. For all minorities, the minority’s population share is strongly correlated with total COVID-19 deaths. For Hispanic/Latino and Asian minorities those correlations are fragile, and largely disappear when we control for education, occupation, and commuting patterns. For African Americans and First Nations populations, the correlations are very robust. Surprisingly, for these two groups the racial disparity does not seem to be due to differences in income, poverty rates, education, occupational mix, or even access to healthcare insurance. A significant portion of the disparity can, however, be sourced to the use of public transit.
Source: Jennifer M. Cavallari, Jennifer L. Garza, Jackie DiFrancesco, Alicia G. Dugan, Erica D. Walker, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: January 18, 2020
From the abstract:
Background: Transportation road maintenance and repair workers, or “maintainers,” are exposed to hazardous and variable noise levels and often rely on hearing protection devices (HPD) to reduce noise‐exposure levels. We aimed to improve upon HPD use as part of the HearWell program that used a Total Worker Health, participatory approach to hearing conservation.
Methods: Full‐shift, personal noise sampling was performed during the routine task of brush cutting. Work activities and equipment were recorded and combined with 1‐min noise measures to summarize personal noise‐exposure levels by equipment. Using noise‐monitoring results, HPD noise reduction ratings, and input from worker‐based design teams, a noise‐hazard scheme was developed and applied to the task and equipment used during brush cutting.
Results: Average (standard deviation) and maximum Leq 1‐minute, personal noise‐exposure levels recorded during brush cutting included chainsaws at 92.1 (7.6) and max of 111 dBA, leaf blowers at 91.2 (7.5) and max 107 dBA, and wood chipper at 90.3 (7.3) and max of 104 dBA. The worker‐designed noise‐hazard scheme breaks down noise exposures into one of three color bands and exposure ranges: red (over 105 dBA), orange (90‐105 dBA), or yellow (85‐90 dBA). The scheme simplifies the identification of noise levels, assessment of noise‐hazard, and choice of appropriate hearing protection for workers.
Conclusion: Combining noise‐exposure assessment with intervention development using participatory methods, we characterized noise exposure and developed an intervention to educate and assist in protecting workers as they perform noisy tasks.
Source: Min Su, Public Administration Review, Volume 80 Issue 1, January/February 2020
From the abstract:
Anecdotal evidence suggests that local governments may have a revenue motive for traffic fines, beyond public safety concerns. Using California’s county‐level data over a 12‐year period, this article shows that counties increased per capita traffic fines by 40 to 42 cents immediately after a 10 percentage point tax revenue loss in the previous year; however, these counties did not reduce traffic fines if they experienced a tax revenue increase in the previous year. This finding indicates that county governments probably view traffic fines as a revenue source to offset tax revenue loss, but not as a revenue stabilizer to manage revenue fluctuation. This article also finds that low‐income and Hispanic‐majority counties raised more traffic fines. Counties that generated more revenue from the hotel tax—a tax typically paid by travelers and visitors—raised more traffic fines, indicating a possible tax‐exporting behavior by shifting the traffic fine burden to nonlocal drivers.
Source: Barbara J. Burgel, Rami A. Elshatarat, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, July 22, 2019
From the abstract:
Taxi drivers experience frequent hassles that may contribute to mental exertion and depression symptoms.
Mental exertion and depression symptoms in taxi drivers are explored in association with hassles, effort‐reward imbalance, job strain, and iso‐strain.
Personal interviews were conducted with 130 drivers in San Francisco.
Mental exertion averaged 4.5 (±2.68) and physical exertion averaged 3.71 (±2.1) on 0 to 10 Borg scales. Based on the Center for Epidemiological Studies‐Depression scale, 38% had depression symptoms. Mental exertion and depression symptoms correlated with job strain, iso‐strain and effort‐reward imbalance in anticipated directions, lending construct validity to the Borg mental exertion scale. Physical exertion, night shift, stressful personal events, and being uninsured for healthcare predicted mental exertion. Lack of respect by dispatchers and stressful personal events predicted depression symptoms.
Selected hassles may be remedied by communication trainings, emphasizing mutual respect. Recognition and treatment of depression in taxi drivers are important.
Source: Arthur C. Nelson, Robert Hibberd, Research in Transportation Economics, In Press – Corrected Proof, Available online June 10, 2019
From the abstract:
This is the first study reporting the association between economic development and express bus transit (XBT) service. Using shift-share analysis applied to the South Miami-Dade express busway transit system, this study assesses differences in shift-share outcomes over three time periods: before the Great Recession (2004–2007), during the Great Recession and early recovery years (2008–2011), and after the Great Recession (2012–2014). Over the entire study period (2004–2014), total jobs grew within one-half mile of XBT stations. Using shift-share analysis, we find that (a) XBT station areas gained share of jobs relative to the central county (Miami-Dade) before the Great Recession, (b) continued to gain share albeit at a slower pace during the Great Recession, but (c) lost share during the post Great Recession period. Over the entire study period, land-extensive jobs (such as in manufacturing and non-manufacturing industry) lost share as did lower-wage retail-lodging-food service jobs. Jobs in knowledge, office, education and arts-entertainment-recreation economic groups gained share overall. Since the Great Recession, we surmise that XBT stations have shifted firm dynamics mostly by displacing land extensive or lower wage jobs away from station areas. Planning and policy implications are offered.
Source: Ted Hampton, Chandra Ghosal, Emily Raimes, Nicholas Samuels, Timothy Blake, Moody’s, Sector Profile, State government – US Medians, June 3, 2019
Total net tax-supported debt (NTSD) for the 50 states was virtually unchanged in 2018, as governments maintained a cautious approach to bond issuance and increased their reliance on operating revenue for transportation infrastructure. The $523 billion in NTSD marked the eighth straight year with minimal change, putting average annual growth at 0.6% since 2011.
Source: Jennifer M. Cavallari, Katrina A. Burch, Jeffrey Hanrahan, Jennifer L. Garza, Alicia G. Dugan, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: May 19, 2019
From the abstract:
It is important to understand workplace factors including safety climate that influence hearing protection device (HPD) use. We sought to investigate the association between HPD use, safety climate, and hearing climate, a new measure specific to hearing.
A survey was developed and distributed among transportation “maintainers” who perform road maintenance and repair. A new hearing climate measure was designed by adapting a safety climate measure. HPD use was assessed by asking workers how often they wear HPD while in noise. The differences in safety climate and hearing climate were compared by the frequency of HPD use using analysis of variance.
Among 166 maintainers, 54% reported always or almost always wearing HPD while noise exposed. High‐frequency HPD users reported a statistically significant higher safety climate (P = 0.004) and hearing climate (P = 0.003).
Hearing climate predicts the frequency of HPD use and may be a useful measure when assessing and improving hearing conservation programs.
Source: Thomas Aaron, Timothy Blake, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, April 11, 2019
Pensions and retiree healthcare pose a credit risk for some of the largest mass transit enterprises. Transit enterprises with material unfunded liabilities face budget challenges that can limit capital reinvestment, contribute to rising debt loads and/or lead to lower service levels.