If one were to view the Durham community as a business, a new study shows that planned public transit investment in the Research Triangle Park can yield a 2 to 1 return, or $12.7 billion dollars, to the area’s private technology sector and its workers as well as help the community grow.  In the study Public Transportation’s Role in the Knowledge Economy shows that public transit investment could provide businesses in the Research Triangle Park’s Innovation District better access to its employees and help attract Millennial workers. 

“This study clearly shows investment in our local public transit infrastructure can help generate new economic activity,” said Jeff Mann, GoTriangle General Manager.  “This new activity helps generate business sales and wage income for its employees.  It also provides tremendous economic growth for the Triangle even after subtracting the cost of the ongoing investment in the local public transit system.” 

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) designed the study and commissioned the Economic Development Research Group to conduct the research. The study looks at the economic impact of public transportation in select regions and does a deeper dive into how public transit supports the emerging tech scenes in three cities. Research Triangle Park is one of the three Innovation Districts, or high tech clusters, studied in the research.  According to the analysis, if the Triangle’s long-range transportation plan was fully implemented by 2035, public transit could save the region’s businesses and residents more than $555 million in transportation costs.  The transportation savings and accompanying productivity enhancement will also generate:

  • $12.7 billion in additional business sales;
  • $7.9 billion in cumulative additional Gross Regional Product
  • $5.6 billion in cumulative wages earned; and

“Public transportation is the catalyst that attracts knowledge workers who show a preference to be connected by multiple transportation options to high-growth business centers such as Research Triangle Park,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.  It helps create dense business infrastructure that preserves key community benefits.  Public transit does a great job of mitigating congestion issues, while providing businesses greater access to labor.”  

“An investment in public transportation is an investment that guarantees future success for the entire Research Triangle Park community,” says Bob Geolas, President & CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation of NC, the organization charged with innovating Research Triangle Park. “Today’s top employers seek out locations that have expanded public transportations options, and our region must continue to support the growth of these systems in order to remain competitive.  

The study authors noted that communities across America are creating “Innovation Districts” – which are areas that include business incubators, anchor institutions and startups.  The study emphasizes that these districts can be an important engine of the American Economy.  Few communities have these districts and they require both robust business and strong investment in transportation infrastructure which includes public transportation.

“This data shows how use of public transit in the Triangle provides savings to both businesses and households as a result from reducing workers out-of-pocket travel costs, travel time, and providing an alternative to a car dependent network,” said Jeff Mann, GoTriangle General Manager . “Public transportation provides a great alternative to car travel on our road system – whether you use public transit or not.  It improves the movement of goods, and most importantly the investment helps grow the community.”

Public Transportation’s Role in the Knowledge Economy is based on three primary case studies and uses both qualitative and quantitative methods.  The other two Innovation Districts studied were the Silicon Beach in Los Angeles, CA; and the Historic Technology District in northwest Austin.  To read the study in its entirety go to www.apta.com/economics

For more information, contact Brad Schulz at GoTriangle 919-485-7434 or bschulz@gotriangle.org or Mantill Williams at APTA, 202-496-4969 or mwilliams@apta.com.


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GoTriangle is a regional transit authority serving Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, UNC, Duke, NC State, NC Central University and North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park. GoTriangle improves the Triangle region’s quality of life by connecting people and places with reliable, safe, and easy-to-use travel choices that reduce congestion and energy use, save money, and promote sustainability, healthier lifestyles, and a more environmentally responsible community. GoTriangle operates regional bus and shuttle service, paratransit services, ridematching and vanpools and provides commuter resources.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private sector organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail.  This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation.  APTA is the only association in North America that represents all modes of public transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products. More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada ride APTA member systems.

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