Unemployment Problem Complicated by Public Transit

The Huffington Post recently published an article titled “Unemployment Problem Includes Public Transportation That Separates Poor from Jobs.” The article follows the stories of three individuals in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who, without a car, face great obstacles in gaining and keeping employment.

As the author, Peter Goodman, shares, Chattanooga residents quickly learn that “The jobs are in one place, he is in another, and the bus does not bridge the divide.”

This situation is not unique to Chattanooga, or even to Tennessee. Despite living in the D.C. Metro Area, an area that has considerably expansive public transit compared to other areas of the United States, residents in our region regularly struggle with transportation limitations.  

Unfortunately, unreliable transportation is a huge barrier to employment – and one that contibutes to the country’s unemployment problem. Historically, low-income residents across the country live near urban centers, while the majority of the jobs they qualify for are in the suburbs. Public transit is often designed to take suburban residents from a central point outside the city into various areas within the city – but more often than not, city residents aren’t able to take public transit to jobs in the suburbs.

It’s one of the many reasons why car ownership programs such as Vehicles for Change are so important for low-income families. VFC regularly meets single mothers who travel 90 minutes – one way, and across multiple bus lines – to reach a minimum-wage job. For many of these women, not having reliable transportation is what keeps them from attaining a better-paying job.

Which leads us to ask: Have you thought about what your life would be like without a vehicle? Would you be able to hold down your job without a car? Could you rely only on public transit?