Uneven Access: Connecting Employers to the Labor Pool in the New York Metropolitan Area

Earlier this year, RPA released an interactive map that showed the wide divergence in job opportunities available to people living in different parts of the New York metropolitan region. The Access to Jobs map highlighted the role education levels, proximity to job centers, transportation options and industry sector all play in expanding or reducing a person's access to employment. The tool also offered planners and policy makers a way to envision how access to workers could be improved, for example by expanding mass transit in an underserved area or adding housing or space for businesses near train stations.

Working with the transportation data experts at Conveyal, RPA now has produced a companion tool, the Access to Workforce map, which explores how employers' access to workers varies in different parts of the New York metropolitan area. Transportation mode, industry and educational attainment of the workforce all significantly influence how many potential employees an employer has access to within reasonable commuting distance.

Both maps were produced as part of RPA's initial research into the Fourth Regional Plan, a multiyear research and public engagement initiative to create a blueprint for our common prosperity, sustainability and governance in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region for the next 25 years.

You can explore the full map here. Or, to see how municipalities or businesses can use the tool as a way to compare different places and transportation options, have a look at the case studies below from locations around the region.

View the Access to Workforce Map

Case Studies

The Long Reach of Manhattan Transit Hubs

Three employment hubs in the Manhattan central business district demonstrate the economic advantages instilled by the region's extensive transit network. Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal and the Fulton Center in Lower Manhattan support dense concentrations of high-paying jobs by reaching deep into the region's workforce. Each of these locations can access well over three million workers within a 60-minute transit commute. That's more than the entire populations of nearly every major city in the U.S. As hubs for the commuter rail network, Penn Station and Grand Central in Midtown Manhattan are within reach of 3.7 million and 3.3 million workers, respectively. Yet even without direct access to commuter rail, Lower Manhattan's dense concentrations of subway lines and PATH service give it access to nearly as many workers -- 3.2 million.

Looking exclusively at the financial industry, the highest-paying sector in the region's economy, the reach of these three hubs is similar. There are 500,000 finance jobs in the tri-state area, and each of these hubs can reach most of the workers in the industry. If a finance company were to locate in Lower Manhattan, it would have access to a pool of 343,000 financial industry workers. Grand Central and Penn Station can reach slightly more -- 353,000 for Grand Central and 380,000 for Penn Station. By contrast, only 44,000 finance workers live within an hour by transit of Stamford, Connecticut, a smaller financial center. The graphic above shows the difference in workforce sheds of Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan and the Stamford Metro-North station for finance workers reachable via transit in 60 minutes.

White Plains: Good Access, With the Potential for More

In 60 minutes, 284,000 workers 30 years or older with a bachelor's or advanced degree can get to a location within a 1/4 mile from the White Plains Metro-North Station. If transit were improved enough to shave off five minutes from the commute time, an additional 75,000 workers could get to the same location in White Plains within 60 minutes. By improving transit access by 15 minutes, almost 200,000 more of the same type of potential employees would be able to reach the same location in 60 minutes. These differences are highlighted in the above graphic focusing on the increased access for Manhattan and western Queens.

Hicksville and Melville: Contrasts on Long Island

Hicksville and Melville are two Long Island locations that couldn't be more different in terms of transportation access. Hicksville is a major transit hub for both trains and buses, but Melville is part of an auto-oriented office corridor along Route 110.

Let's say a health-care company was looking to open a new office in Long Island. The company is considering two sites, one a 1/4 mile from Hicksville train station, and a second one near the intersection of Old County Road and State Highway 110 in Melville. As the graphic above illustrates, many more workers in the health-care industry (204,000) can reach the Hicksville location within an hour or less via transit than can reach Melville (1,000).

More surprising is that even via car, the Hicksville location is accessible to more health-care workers in one hour -- 497,000 for Hicksville vs. 308,000 for Melville. In addition, more workers are able to access Hicksville via a combination drive-and-transit commute, One implication is that improvement in first- and last-mile transportation options -- getting from the train station to the job site or from home to the transit station via bicycle, ride sharing or bus -- could make a big difference in expanding the labor pool within employers' reach.

How Biking Changes the Picture

A few years ago Red Bank, N.J., put a spotlight on cycling with a proposal for one of New Jersey's first bike-share programs. While useful to get to places within Red Bank, a bike share program also could serve as an option for Red Bank residents to get to jobs in the region more efficiently. Only 5,000 workers live within a 20-minute walk to the Red Bank commuter rail station. As the graphic above shows, 18,000 workers would be able to bike to the station in the same amount of time, more than tripling the number workers that could access jobs further away through New Jersey Transit.