Making Connections: Public Transit Links Employees to Jobs and Employers to Labor
Alex Highley, GOPC Project Coordinator
This is the first installment of GOPC’s new series: Getting Ohio to Work: Reaching Opportunity through Public Transportation
To land and keep a job, workers need dependable transportation from their home to their workplace. But many Ohioans cannot get to jobs and many employers cannot fill open positions because of two reasons: sprawling land use characterized by suburbanized employment centers, and a lack of reliable transportation. As employment has tended to move out into “job hubs” in suburban areas, strong public transportation options are needed to connect workers to these opportunities.
It has become even more apparent in the years following the Great Recession that Ohio employers are struggling to fill job openings with qualified job-seekers. This challenge stems in part from sprawling land use and longer commuting times. In the Cincinnati area, there are 25,000 available jobs vacant every day throughout the region, many of which are low skill. Yet only 59 percent of all jobs in the region are reachable by public transit, indicating that many potential workers simply cannot access opportunities.[i] Employers rely on a stable workforce to get to work, but in the Cleveland region, for example, employers note the biggest obstacle to their employees’ success is “attendance/showing to work on time[ii].”
As many job sites have moved into suburban locations, workers are more likely to have to travel across municipal and county boundaries in order to get to work every day. For instance, the amount of jobs located within a “typical commuting distance” in the Greater Cleveland Area decreased by 26 percent between 2000 and 2012[iii]. Moreover, jobs in northeast Ohio—as is the case in other parts of the state—are the hardest to get to for those who need them the most: studies show low-skill and low-pay jobs are the most difficult for people to access.[iv] Given that 1 in 4 households do not own a car in Cleveland, the spreading of work sites into the suburbs has made it increasingly difficult for workers to access these locations.[v] For a large number of people who rely on transit to get to work, many jobs are simply out of reach.
Consequently, there is a need for public transportation services in Ohio that enable workers to reliably and efficiently get to jobs. Creating a robust multimodal transportation system swells the talent pool for employers to choose from, enabling them to fill open positions and boost economic activity. In the Columbus area, Groveport Rickenbacker Employee Access Transit (GREAT) demonstrates a successful model. With support from area employers, the city of Groveport established GREAT in response to the growing logistics hubs south of downtown, offering workers shuttle services to Groveport’s warehouses. Operating in tandem with Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA)’s regional bus network, GREAT transported over 24,000 people in 2016.[vi]
The need for reliable transit service will continue to intensify in Ohio, particularly in small towns where populations are generally growing older and poorer. Expanding mobility through public transit is the most efficient and cost-effective way of linking jobs to job-seekers, given that major jobs centers are not likely to locate in every smaller community. Creating a fluid, multimodal system requires a transit system that is supportive of Ohio’s existing job hubs.