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The Importance of Trip Destination in Determining Transit Share

For a variety of reasons, policymakers in recent years have taken a greater interest in increasing the use of transit. However, it is difficult to substantially impact transit use at a large scale, because it is strongly dependent on development density and other slow-changing features of urban land use. This article argues that policymakers hoping to increase transit use should focus on increasing the size of downtowns and developing suburban job centers at downtown sizes and densities. There are both empirical and practical arguments.

Empirically, large, dense destinations have a very substantial impact on mode choice, regardless of the characteristics of the trip origin. From a practical standpoint, there are two arguments. First, it may be easier to increase densities in commercial areas, both because political opposition is less acute and because developable land is often more available. Second, commercial areas can be developed at much higher densities, with a corresponding impact on transit ridership.