Pratt Center launched the Transportation Equity Atlas project to begin to address the complex transportation challenges facing NYC’s low- and moderate-income communities. We compiled, analyzed and mapped a range of data on commuter routes and travel time, comparing mobility and transit access among several neighborhoods, and found alarming socioeconomic disparities in transportation access.

Through this project we found that a significant share of the city’s workers travel long distances to get to work, and every day must reach destinations that are far outside the Manhattan central business district—south of 59th Street—where our radially-designed subway lines converge. The city’s future economic growth will depend in part on how efficiently workers can get to these and other locations outside central Manhattan.

The Transportation Equity Atlas demonstrates our findings in a series of maps. It shows the commuting patterns of some 289,000 residents of 13 predominantly low- and moderate-income communities in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, and similarly the patterns of workers arriving at major job centers in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens that together employ nearly 300,000 workers.

Dot-density map of New York City: Most low-wage workers live in areas outside the city's subway-rich core.
Dot-density map of NYC: Low-wage workers must travel to work sites dispersed widely around the city and region, leaving the lowest-paid workers with the longest commutes to work

We found great disparities in access between higher-income, professional workers and low-wage manual and service workers. High housing costs mean that most low-wage workers live in areas outside the city’s subway-rich core. Those workers also must travel to work sites dispersed widely around the city and region. This leaves the lowest-paid workers with the longest commutes to work, and limits the geographic range of job opportunities for residents of high-unemployment communities.

New York’s boroughs outside Manhattan have the longest commute times in the country—the Queens average is 41 minutes—and they are getting longer. Lower-income New Yorkers have the longest rides to work: Three-quarters of a million New Yorkers travel more than one hour each way to work, and two-thirds of them earn less than $35,000 a year. By contrast, just 6 percent of these extreme commuters earn more than $75,000 a year. Black New Yorkers have the longest commute times, 25 percent longer than white commuters; Hispanic commuters have rides 12 percent longer.

To bridge the transportation gap, the City of New York and Metropolitan Transportation Authority need bold new approaches expanding transit infrastructure, to reach more homes and destinations, and to do this cost-effectively in a tough budgetary environment. The Transportation Equity Atlas shows the untapped potential of innovations like bus rapid transit to open transit access to employment and residential centers that until now have been underserved.

Project Status

Completed 2010


  • Research & Analysis
  • Urban Planning


  • Map