BRT drives employment in manufacturing sectors

Joanna Ganning of the University of Utah and her research team present "The Effects of BRT on Sectoral Employment Change" January 13 at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C.

In recent decades, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has gained popularity across the United States due to its relatively low costs of development (compared to the investment requirements of putting in a new light rail system, for example) and its potential to drive economic development.

However, there is a need for more comprehensive research devoted to understanding its economic impacts across various sectors.

NITC researcher Joanna Ganning is the lead author on a research paper that will be presented at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board this month, which seeks to estimate the effects of BRT stations on employment growth.

Using Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics data, Ganning and her research team investigated the impacts of BRT on employment changes of each major industry sector between 2002 and 2010.

The researchers analyzed employment data surrounding 226 BRT stations along nine BRT corridors which were opened during the study period, as well as employment data from equally sized areas around control points.

Metropolitan areas included in the analysis were Phoenix, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, New York City, Cleveland, Ohio and Eugene, Oregon.

With the presence or absence of BRT stations as the independent variable, the team found that BRT statistically significantly influenced employment change for just one sector: manufacturing. Other sectors, including health care and social assistance, management of companies and enterprises, public administration, and retail trade all reflected employment change during the study period but this change was not correlated with BRT.

In the manufacturing sector, this research demonstrates, the presence of BRT positively and significantly influences employment—particularly, in the cities studied, this was true of the sub-industry of beverage and tobacco product manufacturing.

Out of 1,311 observed areas (the BRT stations and the control locations), the average location lost 27 manufacturing jobs between 2002 and 2010, but the presence of BRT added 39 jobs.

Given this, it stands to reason that BRT can be a valuable asset in the retention of manufacturing jobs at the local level.

These findings suggest that planners working to integrate land use and transportation planning should consider how certain zoning and land use characteristics around BRT stations can find efficiencies to benefit the manufacturing sector.

In other words, if BRT acts as an external benefit for manufacturing, what other infrastructure or land use planning can public agencies direct in support of that industrial district?

This is the question to pay attention to, when planning and zoning for the areas around BRT stations.

A deeper inspection of the data reveals that, within that sub-industry, there has been a rise in breweries, wineries, and distilleries. All of the cities studied in this paper are located near wine producing areas, have local breweries, or both.

The particular success of these sub-industries in certain places suggests that, to maximize BRT’s potential for economic development, planners should integrate these research findings with a close evaluation of local strengths in manufacturing.

The role of local context is an essential consideration. The composition of the manufacturing sector varies tremendously across the nation, and a balanced economic development strategy to connect BRT to manufacturing stability and growth will consider connections with multiple manufacturing sub-industries within any given city.

Ganning's team presents paper No. 16-5589, “The Effects of BRT on Sectoral Employment Change in the U.S., 2000-2010,” at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 13 in Hall E of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

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