Urban transit has steeply declined post-pandemic

The Era of Urban Supremacy is Over

By: Thomas B. Edsall
In: The New York Times

An excerpt from this article appears below:

Wendell Cox — a founding fellow at the Urban Reform Institute and a principal of Demographia, an international public policy firm — pointed out in a phone interview that the pandemic and the accompanying surge in remote work have wreaked havoc on the transit systems in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In a study of commuter patterns, Cox uncovered “unprecedented declines in (public) transit commuting from 2019 to 2021.” New York’s “transit market share” fell from 31.7 percent to 19.0 percent during that period; San Francisco’s fell from 18.1 percent in 2019 to 4.9 percent, with slightly smaller drops in Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington.

Looking at urban population shifts from 2019 to 2021, Cox observed that almost all substantial gains were in Sun Belt cities:

Among the top 15 metropolitan population percentage gainers, 13 were in the South, with two in the West (Phoenix and Las Vegas). Austin had the strongest population growth (3.0 percent), followed by Raleigh (2.4 percent), Phoenix (2.4 percent) and Jacksonville (2.0 percent).

In regional terms, the losers were more of a mixed bag, including such metropolitan areas as San Francisco:

…losing the most, (–2.6 percent) and San Jose second (–2.4 percent). Four more metros lost more than 1 percent, including New York (–1.8 percent), Los Angeles (–1.5 percent), Honolulu (–1.5 percent) and Chicago (–1.1 percent). Losses of from –0.8 percent to –0.4 percent occurred in Boston, New Orleans, Miami, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Rochester and Washington.

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