Transit ranks high in importance for Hub young professionals

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BOSTON – With growth in economic activity and jobs projected to exceed state averages over the next few years, the Massachusetts capital likely will continue to attract new residents and hold on to a significant portion of the more than 150,000 students who flock to the Athens of America each year.

So figuring out where many of these new permanent residents would prefer to live, based on criteria such as amenities, home prices and getting to and from work can be important. To that end, a real estate industry group, the Urban Land Institute, commissioned a survey to determine what young professionals look for in a workplace and in a place to live.

Despite the widely publicized shortcomings of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which notoriously ground to a halt amid last winter’s record snowfall, 80 percent said proximity to the T was “very important” in choosing a place to live. As to how they currently commute, 73 percent said they took the subway, a street car or a bus. Only 26 percent said they regularly drove alone to and from work, while 22 percent used a bicycle.

The preferences for this group, which was defined as from 20 to 37 years old and with a college degree, also help shape their feelings toward where they work, according to the institute.

“Public transportation takes precedence in determining workplace satisfaction, ranking much higher in importance than access to neighborhood amenities like restaurants and office amenities, like gyms, cafeterias and employee lounges,” the organization’s Boston and New England chapter said in describing the survey’s results. Being located near public transportation was “very important” to as 78 percent. By comparison, about a third said that about proximity to restaurants and nightlife venues.

Having free access to transit courtesy of an employer also ranked high on the list of criteria for workplace satisfaction, the survey showed. Obtaining a transit pass from an employer was considered “very important” by 55 percent, while just 30 percent said that about access to parking. Other aspects that ranked high were having a flexible schedule, at 68 percent, and medical leave, at 73 percent.

The city’s transit system is mired in debt and budget deficits, and may try to increase fares for many services next year to reduce a projected $242 million gap. It has already curtailed some services yet is expected to end the current fiscal year $170 million in the red.

When it comes to important factors for choosing a place to live, 81 percent ranked the ease of commute as “very important,” and being able to walk to amenities was described that way by 75 percent of those surveyed. Also important were access to shopping and the safety of the neighborhood.

The survey of 660 people was done through social media and by emailing people through civic organizations and employers, the institute said on its website. It didn’t list the margin of error of the findings or other technical data for the research, which was conducted by the MassINC Polling Group.

Boston has a disproportionately large concentration of education-related jobs, according to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which last week released a report showing the city’s proportion of school-related employment is more than three times the national average. Yet education was not among the top five sectors in terms of jobs.

Health care led that ranking, at almost 19 percent of all employment in Boston, according to the authority. Other sectors that account for large portions of the city’s almost 700,000 jobs are professional services, finance, government and hospitality industries, including hotels and restaurants.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show the Boston metro area’s jobless rate was 4 percent in September, compared with 4.6 percent statewide. The BRA said the city’s unemployment rate is expected to remain low, particularly as local financial and health services employers continue to grow.