Study: 30% of Triangle jobs are within one mile of proposed commuter rail corridor

RALEIGH – A new study includes findings that could boost efforts to accelerate the Triangle’s plans for rapid transit, along two important dimensions: jobs and housing.

The Triangle J Council of Governments’ new travel market analysis investigated the relationship between the proposed Grand Triangle commuter train project and jobs in the area, finding that 30% of all jobs in Wake Counties, Durham, Johnston and Orange, which the rail corridor connects, are within a mile of the line, including eight of the region’s top 10 employment centers which together account for over 200,000 jobs.

The study also found that “of all the senior jobs in the three counties that pay less than $ 40,000 a year, 23% are in the hallway,” according to a statement shared with WRAL by GoTriangle.

The study areas of the passenger rail corridor and the initial station. The final number and location of the stations are currently being decided as part of the study on suburban trains in the Grand Triangle. This map shows the study areas of the initial station as white dots. Image included in “Getting There: A Market Analysis of Triangle Passenger Rail Corridor Travel” report.

“The data shows us that we are focusing on the right corridor for the rail,” says John Hodges-Copple, director of metropolitan planning at the Triangle J Council of Governments, who conducted the analysis. “The line runs where people already go across the county to work and where 12 of the 15 proposed station areas have a high concentration of low-income people or people who run out of cars, are close to a hub. job or both. The rail corridor appears to be doing a good job of serving what we believe to be important travel markets. “

The latest study is part of the final study phase of the Grand Triangle commuter train project, which would run approximately 37 miles through the counties. The analysis could be used to help local boards decide to go ahead to build the project.

An earlier analysis conducted last year by the Triangle J Council of Governments found that 27% of existing affordable housing in Wake, Durham and Johnston counties was also within a mile of the rail corridor, with 37% of “Legally binding affordable housing” in Durham located less than a mile from the corridor.

Housing affordability in Triangle, across North Carolina, a top concern for business leaders at Economic Forecasting Forum

“Housing is considered affordable when total housing costs, including utilities, do not exceed 30% of your income,” said Yolanda Winstead, President and CEO, DHIC, at the Economic Forecast Forum , during a virtual panel hosted by the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce and North Carolina Bankers Association Friday, which WRAL TechWire covered live.

Using this metric, 55% of all U.S. neighborhoods are considered “affordable” for the typical household, noted the June 2021 Triangle J Council of Government report. But when you factor in transportation costs, which are not included in the affordability benchmarks despite the two expenses being highly correlated according to the report’s authors, the percentage of affordable neighborhoods drops to just 26%.

By connecting a transit corridor to neighborhoods where housing costs remain affordable for residents, allowing greater connectivity to jobs along the corridor, the report authors conclude, “a high quality transit system proximity to affordable housing would help many low-income residents of the Triangle reach employment centers.

Employment density. Image included in “Getting There: A Market Analysis of Triangle Passenger Rail Corridor Travel” report.

Transit connections can be important

According to the latest study from the Triangle J Council of Governments, 45% of workers who live in Wake, Durham, Orange and Johnston counties are employed by companies outside the county where they live.

In Johnston County, the ratio is even higher and has been estimated by the North Carolina Department of Commerce at 51.5%, which in part prompted Johnston County Economic Development to launch a new platform designed to match county residents to jobs located in the county earlier. this month.

The transit relationship between Wake County and Durham County was particularly important in the study’s analysis, with more than 96,000 workers choosing to live in one county but work in the other county.

Analyzing the data, the report’s authors found “that there is an adequate or better density of jobs along the rail corridor; of the 59,300 acres of the rail corridor, 48,900 acres (82%) are in block groups with moderate or higher employment density, and 24,200 acres (41%) are in block groups with employment density high, very high or extremely high. “

Other key findings from the latest report include:

  • The identification of 930,000 jobs located in Johnston, Wake, Durham and Orange counties, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 280,000 or about 30% of all jobs in the region within one mile of the proposed corridor, of which 200,000 are in one of the eight employment centers;
  • Of the 280,000 workers in these jobs, 48% live in Wake County, 22% in Durham County, 5.7% in Johnston County and 5.2% in Orange County;

“The region will continue to grow rapidly, with the backbone of the transit network along the rail corridor being a magnet for growth,” said a statement from Go Triangle, shared with WRAL.

The Triangle J Council of Governments is conducting a third and final study for the current stage of the rail project, examining land use along the rail corridor, and is expected to be completed later in the spring.

“It’s easy to see how a regional transportation system including a commuter railroad will transform the way residents can access new employment opportunities,” said GoTriangle CEO and President Charles E. Lattuca in a statement. communicated. “A transit project that connects our residents to eight of the region’s top 10 employment hubs is a transit project that we need. The commuter train will work hand in hand with new bus rapid transit corridors and investments in local buses to move our region forward.

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