Transit is key to both creating jobs and increasing access to existing jobs.
A large number of people across the country live in neighborhoods with very poor transit options, and many of them don’t have incomes generous enough to support car ownership.
How does someone manage to find a job and continue to arrive on time to work in this situation?
Many advocates have suggested that car-ownership assistance programs are the solution. Give people cars, and their problems go away. While a car would allow access to more job opportunities, car ownership also significantly increases a family’s expenses due to vehicle maintenance, insurance, and fuel. Not to mention parking or road tolls.
In light of this, we should consider other solutions.
Creating new or improving existing public transit for communities that most need it can allow people to access the jobs they need while keeping costs manageable.
In addition to helping transit-dependent individuals access existing jobs, investing in public transportation is proven to create jobs. Of course, the argument can be made that investing in roads also creates jobs, which is true. However, investment in transit creates more net jobs. By simply shifting our spending away from roads and highways and into public transit, we can create 20 percent more jobs without spending a single additional dollar.
Job Creation Targeted to Those Who Need It Most
What’s more, putting transit in communities with high unemployment creates 2.5 times more jobs than if that same transit was put in communities with low unemployment.
This Transportation Equity Network report also suggests that jobs created in construction and transportation sectors by investing in public transit benefit those most hurt by recent economic trends towards a polarized workforce. Many jobs have been created in high-skill/high-wage areas, as well as low-skill/low-wage areas, but few in the middle. Transit investment creates jobs in that important middle area where workers without a college education are paid above minimum wage.
By investing in public transportation over roads, society benefits from significantly higher job growth throughout the economy. And by focusing money in communities that most need it, those societal benefits multiply while creating equitable access for all. I can’t think of a better all-win situation.
Photo by Ed Yourdon.