Regional Government from the Inside

Since this is my final blog, I thought I would write a bit about my internship—what it's like and what I do. I intern for the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the largest Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in the United States. In the last eight weeks, I've gotten a good feel of what it's like to work in regional government. SCAG updates its Regional Transportation Plan (MTP) every four years. The most recent one has just been published, and we're already working on the next one. MPOs establish an impartial setting for effective regional decision-making, and maintain their MTPs and transportation improvement plans (TIP). Thus, I've had the opportunity to work on a few projects here:

  1. "California Housing Summit: The Cost of Not Housing" Publication & Conference
  2. Historical Analysis of Job-Housing Mismatch in Southern California
  3. Transit Ridership Decline Report
  4. Local GIS management and map-making

I recently presented the second project at the Esri User Conference, where GIS users came together to learn about the newest technology and share how they use GIS in their industries. Through analysis of median commute distance between census tracts between SCAG's six counties (Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties), we found that the commute distance grew in the SCAG region between 2002 and 2012. Higher-wage workers tend to commute longer distances than lower-wage workers (probably due to personal car ownership). The commute distance in inland counties grew more rapidly than in coastal counties, especially among low-wage workers.

Furthermore, we also analyzed job-to-worker ratios and mapped them using GIS to visualize how coastal (Los Angeles and Orange) and inland counties (San Bernardino and Ventura) differ. Inland counties show a lower job-to-worker ratio than coastal counties. Counties with lower job-to-worker ratios generate more long-distance commuters, indicating the need for more job growth in inland counties, while coastal counties need more housing growth. The growing commute distance can influence a range of economic, social, transportation, and environmental outcomes, particularly to low-income workers. Since the SCAG region is projected to experience faster employment growth in inland counties through 2040, improvements in job-housing balance may result in the reduction of transportation congestion and related air quality issues.

I learned a lot from my experience at the Esri conference. Today, one of the biggest technologies in geographic analysis is the use of drones; however, the drones are met with federal regulations for how long they can stay in the air and how far they are allowed to go. The poster my team and I worked on was put into the map gallery where you could see dozens of other maps on a variety of topics, such as Bigfoot sightings and the decline of trees in the US.

It's been pretty exciting working at SCAG, and I highly recommend this internship to anyone interested in regional planning and research!