In the Washington area, getting a job is the easy part. Getting to the job can be much more difficult.

The region's public transit system ranked 23rd out of the nation's largest 100 metropolitan areas for how easily public transit links employees with their jobs, according to a report released Wednesday by the Brookings Institution.

"With D.C.'s size, this ranking is very good," said Adie Tomer, Brookings' senior research associate and author of the report. "The question is, 'How many people can get to my spot?' That's what that labor access rate tells you."

Where the jobs are: How much of the labor force employers can reach by a 90-minute transit commute
Rank Metro area Labor access rate
1 Salt Lake City 64.1%
2 San Jose, Calif. 61.3%
3 Honolulu 61.1%
4 Tucson, Ariz. 52.3%
5 Madison, Wis. 48.2%
6 Albuquerque 47.1%
7 Provo, Utah 47.0%
8 Fresno, Calif. 45.8%
9 Denver 45.6%
10 Milwaukee 45.1%
23 Washington 33.8%
Source: Brookings Institution    

The average employer in the Washington region can reach roughly one-third of the population within 90 minutes on public transit. Nationwide, employers reach about 27 percent of their metropolitan workers, the "Where the Jobs Are" report found.

Tomer said regional transit officials are making huge strides with Metro's under-construction Silver Line, which will run through Tysons Corner to Washington Dulles International Airport and beyond.

"With the Silver Line expansion, we are going to be dramatically improving connections," he said.

Stewart Schwartz, executive director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, specifically pointed to Fairfax and Prince George's counties as communities where commutes are more difficult and more transit investment is needed. Arlington, on the other hand, is in "pretty good shape," he said.

"Too many of our employers have not been taking advantage of the investment this region has made in its transit systems, particularly Metrorail," Schwartz said.

The Brookings report suggests future public transit investments should consider job locations and should link suburbs with other suburbs, since many workers commute to other counties, not the District.

"On the good side, people should feel really good about the investments that were made in decades prior. So much is good, especially for a metro this size," Tomer said. "It also means there are 22 metropolitan areas above us. There is still room to improve."

The report is the second part in a pair of transportation reports by Brookings. The first, called "Missed Opportunity," in which the Washington area ranked 17th out of 100, was released in May 2011 and delved into how easy workers in certain communities can get to work using public transit.

rturnbull@washingtonexaminer.com