Sunday, October 19, 2014

Car Access Provides Best Economic Opportunities

Today's Tribune includes a guest commentary from Brandon attorney Gail Gottlieb, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran against Republican Ross Spano in 2012, regarding low wage workers needing transit as a lifeline.  Gottlieb starts by obfuscating her point:
Do you resent the amount of time you spend in your car plodding through clogged roadways as you commute, shuttle kids to school and activities, buy groceries and do other errands?
The first question to Gottlieb then should be how does one commute to work, get their kids to school and other activities, buy a week's worth of groceries, run to the cleaners, stop by a neighbor or family members home, all in one day using transit? They can't. Perhaps that why 98% of residents in Hillsborough County do some or all of these activities everyday using their mode of transportation choice - they drive.

Gottlieb points out the need by low income households who see "public transportation is truly a bread-and-butter issue" and then refers to a study by the left-leaning Brookings Institute:

According to the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, although the working poor spend a much higher portion of their income on commuting than other workers — 6.1 percent vs. 3.8 percent — the working poor who drive to work spend the most: 8.4 percent of their paltry pay.

Even worse, in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country, 700,000 households without access to a car also lack any access to public transportation. For these families, work must be reachable on foot, by bicycle or through the assistance of a neighbor willing to drive them on a regular basis to one or more jobs that may have no regular schedule.
However, Gottlieb was neglectful in her analysis because a few more google searches would find more information regarding access to cars and job opportunities. This New Geography article includes a NBC News report about car loan programs providing independence for low income workers:
A car means Hubbert no longer spends two hours each way to and from work in suburban Atlanta. It means spending more time with her 3-year-old daughter — and no longer having to wake her up at 5 every morning so she can be in the office by 8. It also means saving hundreds of dollars each week in day care late fees she incurred when she couldn’t get to the center before its 6:30 p.m. closing time. 
“There was just no room to relax, no room to breathe. It was always just go, go, go, go, go,” the 24-year-old single mom told TODAY’s Erica Hill about a life dependent on public transportation and family who could provide her with rides. 
Car loans for low income workers
“The number of job opportunities that are available in the car circle is about four times the number of opportunities that are available in the bus circle,”

“A car really is a freedom and economic driver for them,” Faulkner said.
The New Geography post also states:
A study by the Brookings Institute finds that, among the ten leading metropolitan areas in the US, less than 10% of jobs in a metropolitan area are within 45 minutes of travel by transit modes. Moreover, 36% of the entry-level jobs are completely inaccessible by public transit. This is not surprising given the fact that suburbia houses two-thirds of all new jobs.
The mismatch between people and jobs can be reconciled in two ways: car loans and car-sharing services. Basic car-sharing involves several people using the same car or a fleet of cars, as with the ZipCar. The concept has branched out to on-demand car sharing services, such as Lyft, mobile apps which link riders with drivers.
The Brookings Institute study also reports "The typical metropolitan resident can reach about 30 percent of jobs in their metropolitan area via transit in 90 minutes." Their agenda is also clearly stated:
Metro leaders should coordinate strategies regarding land use, economic development, and housing with transit decisions in order to ensure that transit reaches more people and more jobs efficiently.
Does this sound eerily familiar to what we keep hearing from the Hillsborough County Transportation Policy Leadership Group? Do we have to pay to redesign our county to increase transit ridership?

Gottlieb missed this July National Journal article How Car Ownership Helps the Working Poor Get Ahead
This March, the Urban Institute released a statistical analysis of federal data that found a link between car ownership and employment. Researchers took a look at federal data collected on two groups of low-income people who received housing vouchers in the 1990s and early 2000s.
"The families who had cars were more likely to get access to high-quality neighborhoods—and they were more likely to get jobs if they didn't have jobs already, and keep jobs if they already had jobs, than those households who did not have cars," says Rolf Pendall, director of the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. Access to public transit was associated with keeping a job but not with getting one. 
Marty Schwartz, president of Vehicles for Change, says that about three-quarters of clients who acquire a car through the organization get a better job within a year, and see an income boost of about $7,000.
This Urban Institute post in April (which was cross posted at CityLabs blog) states:
Housing voucher recipients with cars tended to live and remain in higher-opportunity neighborhoods—places with lower poverty rates, higher social status, stronger housing markets, and lower health risks. Cars are also associated with improved neighborhood satisfaction and better employment outcomes. Among Moving to Opportunity families, those with cars were twice as likely to find a job and four times as likely to remain employed.
Even as highly educated millennials and baby boomers fantasize about car-free cities, car access is still indispensable for many families seeking safety and economic security.
Gottlieb ignores data confirming access to a car provides the most economic opportunities, especially for low income workers. She ignores "Transit use outside New York actually “declined in absolute terms last year.”  

Gottlieb ignores car charities who have provided thousands of donated cars to struggling families nationwide. She ignores car sharing and ride sharing services and other innovations  coming out of the private sector such as autonomous vehicles.

If Shetara Brown was provided the opportunity to have access to a car, would she have more job options, more job opportunities and easier commutes for work, day care and doctor's appointments?

Gottlieb failed to ask that question.

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