By Peter Tateishi
The capital region’s population is growing, construction is on the rise, congestion is increasing, and community priorities are changing. Our economic success will be driven by how we invest strategically in strengthening and enhancing what connects us: our transportation systems, a vital component of which is our local transit systems. Modernization via expanded service, improved connection points, and more mobility options are a critical component of our region’s future competitiveness for attracting new business investments and the future’s brightest workforce.
At its core, transit is fundamentally about connectivity. As a region with six counties and 23 cities, buses, trains, and light rail link our activity centers, our business centers, our cultural amenities and housing. Thriving businesses rely on good connectivity to bring customers to their doors and employees to work each day. This is why more and more commercial development is looking to build along transit lines. Research also shows people who ride transit report much higher satisfaction rates with their commutes than those who drive. Improved access to connectivity via transit can have a direct impact on quality of life.
Transit investment directly impacts economic development, and transit systems create jobs. John Martin, CEO of The Southeastern Institute of Research Inc., recently spoke to members of our business community on the importance transit can play in attracting and retaining the millennial workforce. He said that every $1 million invested in public transportation creates over 50 jobs, and every $1 invested in public transportation generates about $4 in economic returns. There are more than 1,000 employees working at the Sacramento Regional Transit District today, and with new investments come new construction jobs and related positive economic impacts.
Access to transit is increasingly affecting quality-of-life ratings. This is most true for the millennial generation – the young professionals and future leaders of our region. In our most recent survey of our young professional group MetroEdge, improving public transportation was the resounding answer to the question of what issue is the most important to our region and in what ways we can better attract young professionals.
The capital region must attract millennials for our businesses to grow and be competitive in the 21st century economy. According to the 2010 census, more than 10,000 25- to 34-year-olds live within three miles of downtown Sacramento. That’s more than a 40 percent increase since 2000. That makes it even more important that we pursue transit-oriented development patterns and work with RT to re-evaluate and re-design its routes to best serve the various business hubs and changing commuting patterns.
Much progress has been made, but businesses, residents and local leaders must work as partners with RT in pursuit of this new vision for a transit-empowered future to achieve maximum success. Prioritizing transit is about prioritizing our economic success, our quality of life, our competitiveness and our sustainability.
Peter Tateishi is president and CEO of the Sacramento Metro Chamber.
Source: Sacramento Business Journal