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REGION'S TRANSIT GETS LOW MARK

It's hard enough finding work in the Tampa Bay these days. But even for those who do have a job, getting to work is no picnic.

The Bay Area ranks in the bottom fourth of the country when it comes to connecting commuters to their jobs, according to a mass transit analysis being released today by the Brookings Institution.

In a report entitled "Missed Opportunity: Jobs and Transit in Metropolitan America," Brookings ranks Tampa Bay 77th out of 100 metro areas based on issues like rush-hour wait time and how long it takes to get to work.

Overall, the report found that nearly 70 percent of residents in large metros live in neighborhoods with access to transit service, and rush-hour service is available about once every 10 minutes. Tampa Bay was in line with those marks. But the region scored relatively low when it comes to percentage of jobs that are reachable via transit within the 90-minute benchmark set by Brookings.

Fellow Florida metros didn't fare much better: none was in the top half of the list. Bradenton-Sarasota came in 57th; Miami-Fort Lauderdale ranked 63rd; Jacksonville, 70th; Orlando, 83rd and Palm Bay-Melbourne, 99th.

Fifteen of the 20 metro areas that ranked lowest are in the South.

The analysis found that nationally only about one-fourth of the jobs in low- and middle-skill industries can be reached via transit within 90 minutes.

Brookings' conclusion: the country can do better.

"The journey to work literally defines U.S. metropolitan areas," the report says. "Transportation leaders should make access to jobs an explicit priority in their spending and service decisions, especially given the budget pressures they face."

* * *

How they ranked

1. Honolulu

2. San Jose, Calif.

3. Salt Lake City, Utah

77. Tampa Bay

98. Augusta, Ga.

99. Palm Bay-Melbourne

100. Poughkeepsie-Newburgh, New York

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