University of Minnesota

Access Across America: Auto 2020

Study finds widespread increased job access via auto in major U.S. metros

photo of traffic jam on interstate

Access Across America: Auto 2020, which estimates the ability of people to connect to opportunity via the road network, shows that access to jobs by auto had increased in 43 — or 86% — of the top 50 U.S. metropolitan areas just before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Rankings of the top 10 metro areas for job accessibility by auto increased an average of about 6% from the previous year.

The study also shows the change in congestion impacts for each metro since the previous year. Access to jobs by auto decreased due to congestion delays in 92% of the 50 largest U.S. metros.

For example, job accessibility in the 6th-ranked Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area increased by 1.4% over the previous study with the average worker traveling by auto able to reach 900,491 jobs within 30 minutes. The Minneapolis metro also ranked 33rd for growth in congestion impact with 30 percent fewer jobs accessible within the same 30-minute commute during peak travel times.

In another example, Dallas ranks 3rd for job accessibility but 16th in congestion impact, suggesting that job accessibility is influenced less by congestion there than in other cities. By contrast, Boston ranks 17th for job accessibility by auto but 5th in congestion impact, indicating that congestion plays a relatively larger role in limiting local access to jobs than in other metro areas.

Key factors affecting the rankings for any metro area include the number of jobs available and where they are located, the road network structure, traffic management practices, the provision of alternate transportation modes, and population size, density, and location. Better coordination of transportation systems with the location of jobs and housing will improve job accessibility by auto.

The findings have a range of uses and implications. State departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, and local government agencies can apply the evaluations to performance goals related to congestion, reliability, and sustainability. In addition, detailed accessibility evaluation can help in selecting between project alternatives and prioritizing investments.

Data used in the 2020 edition of the report were collected almost entirely prior to the onset of the COVID pandemic and resulting travel behavior changes. Because future editions will include data reflecting conditions at various points during the pandemic, the 2020 results may provide a useful baseline for evaluating the impact that COVID-19 had on access across America.

Top 10 metro areas for job accessibility by auto

  1. New York
  2. Los Angeles
  3. Dallas
  4. Chicago
  5. San Jose
  6. Minneapolis
  7. Detroit
  8. Houston
  9. Pheonix
  10. Denver

Top 10 metro areas for greatest one-year increase in job accessibility by auto

  1. Washington
  2. Cleveland
  3. Tampa
  4. Phoenix
  5. Buffalo
  6. Orlando
  7. Detroit
  8. Austin
  9. Milwaukee
  10. Pittsburgh

Top 10 metro areas for loss in job accessibility due to congestion

  1. Los Angeles
  2. Riverside
  3. San Francisco
  4. New York
  5. Boston
  6. San Jose
  7. Atlanta
  8. Seattle
  9. Washington
  10. Miami

Top 10 metro areas for worst one-year loss in job accessibility due to congestion

  1. San Francisco
  2. San Diego
  3. Nashville
  4. New Orleans
  5. San Jose
  6. Denver
  7. Sacramento
  8. Baltimore
  9. Dallas
  10. San Antonio

More information

The research is sponsored by the National Accessibility Evaluation Pooled-Fund Study, a multi-year effort led by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and supported by partners including the Federal Highway Administration and additional state DOTs.

The Accessibility Observatory is a program of the Center for Transportation Studies.