Transportation Affordability in North Carolina’s Triad Region

Like the Triangle, the Triad is a sprawling region with several urban centers. In the same 2014 rankings that we’ve reported for the Triangle and Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Greensboro-High Point were ranked the 13th and 14th most-sprawling metros in the nation. Each scored particularly poorly on street connectivity – meaning that even short drives may take longer due to fewer routes between two places.

Sprawl is a bit of a double-edged sword for transportation affordability. Spreading jobs throughout the metro area could reduce transportation costs by making commutes shorter. However, the Triad’s poor public transit and lack of street connectivity forces many families to spend a disproportionate amount of income on transportation.

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Transportation Affordability in Metro Charlotte

Like other North Carolina metros – and many cities throughout the Sunbelt – Charlotte is very sprawling.  A recent report ranked the city as the 25th -most sprawling in the country.  However, among metros with a population of over one million, Charlotte ranked 5th in terms of sprawl.*

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Households devote less of their income to transportation in the denser parts of Charlotte.  Click the map to interact with it.

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Transportation Affordability in North Carolina’s Research Triangle

We begin our analysis of transportation affordability by examining the Triangle metro area.  Like many metros in North Carolina, the Triangle is very sprawling.  A recent report ranked Raleigh-Cary as the 67th most sprawling metro (out of 221 analyzed), while Durham-Chapel Hill placed 31st.*  Both have little mixing between residential areas and job centers – meaning that residents have to drive longer distances to employment.  This, in turn, drives up transportation costs for residents.

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Click the map above to go to an interactive version.

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Transportation Affordability in North Carolina’s Cities

In our next series of posts, we’ll shift our attention to a major cost faced by low-income households: transportation.  Transportation is most families’ second-greatest expense (after housing); on average, Americans spend nearly 14% of their income on it.  However, the average poor family spends nearly 23% of their income on transportation, but despite paying more their transportation is often less reliable.

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