More MARTA can increase access to jobs, equality
By Che Watkins, The Center for Working Families
When people think about workforce development and working to reduce poverty, they don’t typically think about transportation and how that impacts our ability to reduce poverty. However, it is a huge issue. A number of the major job centers sit outside of the current transit system and connecting between transit systems can be very difficult. Think about what it takes for you to get through your day – dropping off kids at school or child care, getting to work on time, going to the grocery store, picking the kids up, running errands. Now think about if your hours are not 9-5, you live South of I-20 and your warehouse job is in North Gwinnett. Chances are you would want to try to find a job closer to where you live but what if that isn’t an option without resorting to a series of trains and buses plus a lot of wait time.
MARTA is currently accepting public comment on the More MARTA plan on how to invest the $2.5 billion over the next 40 years being generated by a new half penny sales tax. The guiding principles of the plan do include increasing mobility for workers to and from major job centers, enhancing commute predictability and integrating into regional transit networks. The plan also points to benefits of the proposed program that include increased access to more than 300,000 jobs and 61% greater access to transit for communities with large minority or low-income populations.
Those are all great benefits and we should all be encouraged by those efforts. However, I truly hope that specific attention has been paid when designing the plan, not just on getting people to their favorite restaurant or concert, but also has an eye towards equity when it comes to underserved communities. People in these communities have had to “figure it out” for far too long and focus has to be given to ensuring that underserved communities have access to job centers through reliable transportation. I hope that the plan considers: Where are the additional jobs that can be accessed and what kinds of jobs are they? Are they in Midtown, Buckhead or Downtown and are higher income jobs or will there be improved access to jobs for entry level and mid-level positions?
An equity perspective must be a part of the conversation. I worked on the 2012 TSPLOST that went down in defeat so I am personally very excited to see the progress that we are making. Let’s just ensure that it is progress for everyone.
If you agree, please take the time to fill it the More MARTA survey at www.itsmarta.com/moremarta.