BTC BRIEF: Transit's Most Reliable Customers - Why Considering the Needs of Low-Income Populations Improves Public Transit

By Tazra Mitchell
Budget & Tax Center Fellow
December 2012


  • The success of new and expanded transit in North Carolina will largely depend on how well the transit system retains and reaches its most reliable customers: low-income North Carolinians. This requires developing transit plans with an eye to where low-income people live and work.
  • Sixty-seven percent of North Carolina’s workers commuting by public transit had annual incomes below $25,000 in 2011. The share of low-income workers commuting by transit is also increasing, with this group’s ridership up nearly 11 percent from 2010 to 2011.
  • Renters, who are disproportionately lower-income, are more likely to use public transit compared to the average North Carolinian. Even though renters only comprised 3 out of 10 working households in the state in 2011, 7 out of 10 workers commuting by transit were renters.
  • Housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable in North Carolina’s urban cores, where public transit is primarily located and jobs are more plentiful.
  • The growing spatial mismatch between public transit, affordable housing, and job growth underscores the need for transit planning to be coordinated with planning in other policy silos before new transit is built.


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