- Author: Edward Graham
- Date: September 22, 2021
An e-scooter is parked in a dockless mobility corral in Pittsburgh, PA By integrating a variety of mobility services into…
A September 2015 report by consulting company Newmark, Grubb, Knight, Frank (NGKF) looked at suburban areas that have a high proportion of obsolescent office buildings to identify factors for that obsolescence. They enumerated 6 factors that make leasing space in a particular suburban location less desirable: four are related to the building itself and its amenities; the other two are parking and location. For transit folk, it is this latter factor that is important. NGKF defined desirable location as being within ½ mile of transit or having premier highway access. The report notes steps office building owners can take to improve their desirability for leases. The question is, how willing are those owners to advocate for better transit access to increase their building's marketability?
We must also recognize, however, that simply having a bus run near your office isn’t the only answer. As the 2011 Brookings Institute study showed, the transit travel time is also a factor. As noted in my last blog post, how often are people willing to travel over an hour on transit to get to a job? So a person’s origin is equally important. Are they traversing from the city center to a suburb by transit? Or do they already live in the suburbs, in which case they will most likely drive to their job in another suburb; and based on my local area in the Washington DC suburbs, cross-county traffic can be just as miserable as the suburb-to-city center journey.
Combine this with the recent data showing lower driving rates among millenials, and you could have a real problem for suburban office owners. Read this quote from a recent blog:
At a New Year’s Eve party, I was talking to a business exec running a tech company located in a suburban office building. He was complaining about the number of times he would interview a person who would say he wasn't crazy about taking the subway and then a bus all the way out to the ‘burbs every day. The exec got increasingly frustrated and at one point responded “So get a car! That’s what grown-ups do when they get jobs!” The candidate responded that he didn’t know how to drive, didn’t have a license, and would keep looking for a job that allowed him to use a bike or transit.
Now this job candidate may have had the option of buying a car, but just chose not to. What about those for whom car ownership is not an option because of limited income—those who may work not in the tech industry but in surrounding businesses, such as food service, retail stores, child care, etc? Any improvements to public transit that serve suburban-traveling millenials will equally serve those who depend on public options to get to their jobs.
The NGKF report concluded that, as always, context and nuance are important. “We find that key tenant preferences vary by market, and that is what has driven this analysis.” They continue, however, to say that “location (relative to mass transit and highways) and access to building and neighborhood amenities appear to be a common theme among tenant preferences nationwide.”
So what does this mean for transit? Well, a few things. , when it meets certain characteristics:
Perhaps interviewing that job seeker described above, who refused to drive or make a long transit trip, could be helpful in identifying just what type of transportation option would convince him to take a job in the suburbs.
Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Sage Kashner (email@example.com).