As US leaders suddenly pivot to focus on unemployment, Emily Garr at The Avenue picked up on a line of President Obama’s recent speech in Lorain County, Ohio.
You can’t get to work or go buy groceries like you used to because of cuts in the county transit system.
She goes on to describe cuts in the transit services to this suburban county that are definitely not “trimming the fat” but more like multiple amputations.
Transit advocates need to be picking up this line. Back in the mid-90s, when welfare reform was timely, I routinely ran passenger surveys on various transit systems as part of planning projects. The surveys had many other purposes, but I made a point to ask both “what is your trip purpose?” and “if transit had not been available, how would you have made your trip?” A common answer to the second question was that the person would not have been able to make the trip. Cross-tabulate that with a trip purposes of “work” and you get a count of people who could not hold their jobs without public transit. It’s an easy thing to do in any customer survey, and every transit agency and advocate should know this number.
It’s also important to notice that the people who are on the verge of not being able to hold their jobs are mostly in relatively low-wage jobs in the service sector — restaurants, fast food, big box retail, etc. These people are commuting all day and much of the night. Transit that supports high employment is all-day service, not just peak service aimed at the generally better-off 9-to-5 commuter.