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Press Release

Job access for public transit users in the Pittsburgh area examined by Cleveland Fed researchers

Study also explores one possible avenue for increasing job access: using ride-hailing services to supplement public transit

Job access – the ability for workers to get to jobs in a tolerable commute time -- affects both employers looking for workers with the right skillsets and job seekers looking for the best job. In a new study, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland researchers Brett Barkley, Emily Garr Pacetti, and Layisha Bailey examine job access in Allegheny County – home to Pittsburgh -- for commuters who use public transit. They also explore one possible avenue for increasing residents' access to jobs: supplementing existing transit routes with ride-hailing services, such as Lyft or Uber.

The researchers find that, while transit users in Allegheny County enjoy lower than average commute times, roughly 20 percent experience a commute greater than 60 minutes each way. The researchers also find that jobs are least accessible for workers with a high school degree or less.

Looking at employers' access to workers, the researchers find that 4 of the top 10 employment centers in Allegheny County each has access to less than 5 percent of the county's workforce within a 60-minute public transit commute. One of those employment centers, Carnot-Moon, has the highest concentration of low-skill jobs of any major job hub.

The study explores the potential impact of one short-term option for increasing job access -- supplementing existing public transit routes with ride-hailing services – and finds that ride-hailing increases the accessibility of jobs and workers.

"If transit routes were supplemented with a ride-hailing service, job access within a 90-minute commute would increase substantially, from about 30 percent to 44 percent for Allegheny County residents," say Barkley, Pacetti, and Bailey. "In some areas – cost aside – more than 200,000 workers would gain access to jobs."

However, the researchers note that the gains are larger, in aggregate, for workers with higher education and wages. "For example, for commutes up to 90 minutes, adding a ride-hailing service to existing public transit options would increase access to about 23,000 low-wage jobs and 44,000 higher-wage jobs."

In order to benefit low-wage workers, the researchers say public investments in riding-hailing services would need to be geographically targeted and equitably distributed.

"Allegheny County's transit situation is similar to what we found in recent analyses of Northeast Ohio: targeted strategies and investment are needed to better connect employment centers to potential workers, focusing on the largest suburban employment centers with the lowest access rates and highest concentration of low-skill jobs," say the researchers. They note that Carnot-Moon, for example, has the highest concentration of low-skill jobs of the top 10 employment centers -- one in three jobs there requires no more education than a high school degree. "If ride-hailing were added there," say the researchers, "almost 100,000 additional workers would have access to jobs within 90 minutes; these jobs are not accessible to public transit otherwise."

For the complete report, see A Long Ride to Work: Job Access and the Potential Impact of Ride-Hailing in the Pittsburgh Area.

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Media contact

Doug Campbell,, 513.455.4479