A Sun Sentinel article reports that city officials hope that new apartments in Downtown Boca will “thin the clog of commuters on the city’s roads.” As an economist and statistician with extensive experience analyzing census and other data sources, I cannot find support for the city’s hopes.[1]

Who Commutes?: Lower income workers commute in & higher income workers commute out

Boca Raton is a City of cross commuters.  Almost 70% of Boca’s resident working population, commute outside Boca for work. This group is predominantly professionals, managers and business owners. The new rental units will not affect these outbound commuters.

Almost 90% of those who commute into Boca for work occupy lower-level positions in stores, restaurants, the Boca Resort, condos, rental buildings and gated-communities. Census data indicate that most of the inbound workers earn less than $3,333 per month, are between 30 and 54 years of age, and live in families with children.  Almost 85% of the inbound commuters come from the North, South, Southwest and Northwest of Boca Raton. These are areas where people can find more economical single family homes and lower-rent apartments.

Few workers currently commuting to Downtown Boca will rent the new units

Why?

The new downtown rental units are too small & cost too much!

The cost and size of the new rental units make it unlikely that many workers currently commuting to the Downtown will occupy them. Most of the new rental units have only one bedroom and 500 to 700 square feet of space. Such units are not going to be rented by families with children, most inbound commuters.  

The relatively few single inbound commuters are also unlikely to rent the new units due to their high cost. For example, Camden’s one-bedroom units rent for $1,524. A single commuter earning $3,333 would have to spend almost half his or her gross income (not take home pay) to rent a unit at Camden.

A widely accepted rule of thumb is that a family should not pay more than 25% of take home pay for housing costs. Twenty-five percent of $3,333 is $833 far below the rents even for one of the new one bedroom units.

Families with children, the typical commuters into Boca, would need a two bedroom unit at a minimum. Two bedroom units in downtown Boca are typically between 1,000 and 1,200 square feet and rent for $2500 and up. For example, Camden’s two-bedroom units are 1034 square feet and rent for $2549. The typical Boca inbound commuter would have to spend at least 75% of their total earnings (not take home pay) to rent one of the new two bedroom units.  This is not economically feasible.

The new rental units are likely to increase not decrease congestion in the Downtown

Why?

New Inbound commuters will be needed to serve the new downtown rental units

Each of the multiple new rental complexes in downtown Boca will require new staff (gardeners, cleaners, porters, desk staff, and office staff).  These new workers will likely join the already large influx of commuters to the downtown.

The largely seasonal people who rent the new units will add traffic to the Downtown

As reflected in the Sun Sentinel article,  the new rental units in the Downtown will be occupied by many seasonal people (such as the Norwegian couple mentioned in the Sun Sentinel article). These people will add to Downtown congestion as they commute to shopping, the beach and nearby communities.

What Does All This Mean?

I can find no basis for the City’s hope that the new apartments in Downtown Boca will “thin the clog of commuters on the city’s roads.”  It seems far more likely that the new rental units will increase traffic and parking problems in the Downtown.



[1] Fellow of the American Statistical Association and research economist at the National Bureau of Economic.