V. Local Innovative Practices

The innovative practices presented in this section represent a variety of welfare-to-work transportation designs tested in various areas and environments, including major metropolitan areas and rural areas. Diversity is also reflected in the populations served, which range from ordinary workers, to welfare recipients, to Native Americans living on reservations.

While some of these initiatives have been in operation for a long time and have gone through numerous refinements, others are relatively new. Some offer transportation services, others focus on marketing and outreach and still others present methods to incorporate welfare transportation into overall transportation system planning. With each of the following examples, the type of welfare-to-work innovation is identified along with the area.

In reviewing the innovative practices presented in this publication, it is clear that there is no single welfare-to-work transportation solution. The methods that work are responsive to the needs of local clients and employers, take into consideration the unique geography and resources of the regions they serve and identify, coordinate with or build upon existing public and human service transportation.

Baltimore, Md. - Reverse Commute

Baltimore is one of five cities involved in an employment transportation initiative co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development known as Bridges to Work. The program, operated by the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalit Coalition (HEBCAC), identifies job-ready individuals, helps them prepare for and obtain employment and provides them with rides to work. The program aims to serve residents of East Baltimore, an area with a high proportion of welfare recipients, but few employment opportunities. The jobs-rich area near the Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Airport - 15 miles from East Baltimore - is the targeted employment destination.

When HEBCAC assists people in obtaining employment in the BWI Airport district, it provides door-to-door van rides from East Baltimore to job sites. Since the project started in December 1996, two vans have been picking up workers in East Baltimore each morning, dropping them off at work, and transporting them back home in the evening. Many of the riders are former welfare recipients, and the opportunity to obtain a good job has had a major impact on their lives.

Without the van service, residents of East Baltimore would be unable to take advantage of the job opportunities near the airport. Traditional public transit does not serve this route effectively. While the city of Baltimore operates bus service between East Baltimore and the airport, the first bus arrives too late for most morning shift jobs.

For each rider, the service is free for the first two weeks. Subsequently, the full fare is $4 per round trip with the remaining operating costs absorbed by HEBCAC as part of the Bridges to Work program. For participants seeking employment in the airport district, HEBCAC provides free van rides for job interviews.

To help job seekers, HEBCAC collaborates with the city of Baltimore Office of Employment Development and a number of job training and placement agencies. This coordination allows HEBCAC to identify riders and helps the other agencies find rides to work for their clients. The agency also has an arrangement with the BWI Business Partnership for outreach to employers in the airport district.

The long-term plan is to demonstrate that the service is financially viable, with a farebox recovery ratio of at least 50 percent. Baltimore's efforts showcase coordinated job placement and transportation services and outreach to employers and prospective riders.

For more information contact:

Scot Spencer
Historic East Baltimore Community
Action Coalition
808 N. Chester Street
Baltimore, MD 21205E
E-mail: spencs@rpi.edu

Buffalo, N.Y. - Planning, Reverse Commute

Transportation providers in Western New York are restructuring their mobility system to respond to job and population shifts. The new service concept is called Hublink, and focuses on better coordination of all types of transportation services to increase personal mobility and maximize limited transportation dollars.

Led by the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority (NFTA) in Buffalo, N.Y., the Hublink initiative is a model for planning transportation systems to explicitly take into account employment transportation. Hublink includes extensive research on transportation needs and alternatives, coordination opportunities and creative financing. The objective is to create a broad-based community consensus regarding the best approach to improving public transportation. To date, several service concepts have been developed to better provide employment transportation:

Late-Night Service

Many inner-city residents are employed in service industries, which have night or evening shifts outside traditional working hours. To improve services for passengers traveling to and from work at night, NFTA operates a request-a-stop program after 9:00 p p.m. which allows riders to alight anywhere along the route if the bus can safely stop.

Reverse Commuting

Much of the central portions of Buffalo and Western Niagara Falls are characterized by transit-dependent populations who need better access to suburban employment in the retail, service and health care fields. While significant job opportunities in these fields are available in suburbs adjacent to Buffalo, transit services have historically underserved these markets. NFTA is exploring a variety of methods to improve access to these jobs, from modifying existing routes to introducing innovative services tailored to these markets. Modifications include implementing timed transfers at suburban hubs and key urban transfer points, expanding access to reverse commute trips on existing and new suburban-to-city express routes and introducing limited-stop service on key routes in reverse directions. New services may include a region-wide vanpool program, subscription buses to the largest employment centers and employer shuttles at suburban work sites.

Buffalo's transportation planning process resulted from the recognition of unmet needs and commitment from a broad-based coalition to a variety of transit service concepts in which employment transportation is a significant component.For more information contact:

For more information contact:

Karen Rae
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority
181 East Ellicott Street
Buffalo, NY 14203
Phone: (716) 855-7638

Chicago, Ill. - Multiple Strategies

During the past few decades, the city of Chicago experienced the loss of thousands of full-time manufacturing jobs the kind needed to support a family with good pay, benefits and job security. Many of the full-time jobs remaining in the city have been f filled by workers commuting from suburbs.

A 1995 research project conducted by the Chicago Urban League, Northern Illinois University and the Urban Institute examined the imbalance between jobs and job seekers in the Chicago metropolitan area. It found that for every entry-level job opening in Chicago, there are 10 entry-level job seekers. However, in relatively job-rich suburban DuPage County, there is an almost equal balance between entry-level job seekers and entry-level job openings, at least for white-collar jobs. Many suburban manufacturers, however, have difficulty filling entry-level, blue-collar positions -- largely because the prime labor force lives in the city and is too poor to own a reliable vehicle.

Chicago has been a showcase for efforts to overcome these mobility challenges. Two different kinds of service providers -- the nonprofit Suburban Job-Link Corporation and the suburban transit agency PACE -- have each developed effective strategies.

Suburban Job-Link Corporation

Suburban Job-Link Corporation, a nonprofit community economic development organization, was founded in 1971 to serve unemployed residents of Chicago's West Side neighborhoods which suffer from chronic unemployment and welfare dependence. Suburban Job-Link seeks to connect residents of inner-city neighborhoods with good employment opportunities in Chicago's suburbs, like job-rich DuPage County. The term good employment opportunities means that Suburban Job-Link targets jobs which are accessible within a reasonable commuting time; that provide enough take-home income and fringe benefits to allow workers to escape poverty; and that provide a realistic opportunity for upward mobility.

Suburban Job-Link offers both employment and transportation services, a combination which forms its worker mobility strategy. It concentrates its resources in the following program areas: running a suburban Job Oasis support facility which provides a series of employment, work-readiness and transportation services under one roof; ensuring the mobility of workers between inner-city neighborhoods and suburban areas through a daily express bus service and a neighborhood-based rideshare network for reverse commutes; identifying full-time jobs with benefits and decent wages for trainees; improving interpersonal skills through coaching, training and mentoring; incubating a neighborhood empowerment program focused on bringing full-time suburban job openings to inner-city neighborhoods; and creating opportunities by placing unemployed people in temporary positions that provide work experience, earned income and access to employers.

Specifically, Suburban Job-Link offers the following transportation services:

Express Bus Transportation Services

Suburban Job-Link uses eight buses to provide inner-city residents with commuter transportation services between Chicago s West Side and jobs in the northwest suburbs. Half of the fleet are coach buses; the remainder are converted school buses.

In 1996, Suburban Job-Link initiated a corridor transportation strategy. There are two designated corridors currently in place: Roosevelt Road and Cermak Road. Workers who live within three blocks of either road can walk to any Chicago Transit Authority bus stop along the route and catch a Suburban Job- Link bus to their workplace. The organization uses custom computer software and scanning equipment to automate bus passenger tracking. Riders are asked to pay as much as $2 per ride, which covers part of the cost of bus transportation while the remainder is covered by Suburban Job-Link.

Shuttle Transportation Services

Suburban Job-Link uses passenger vans and buses to provide free rides between innercity neighborhoods and the Job Oasis in Bensenville, Ill. Free shuttles are also provided for job interviews. Once the job seeker becomes employed, express bus service or ridesharing is used for long-term commuting.

Suburban Job-Link develops well-traveled routes with its shuttle bus service. Once a route reaches a certain ridership threshold, Suburban Job-Link coordinates with PACE Suburban Bus Service, turning over the most popular routes to the traditional transit organization.

PACE Suburban Bus Service

Transit agencies based in the suburbs have traditionally provided radial service focused on central business districts. With the shift in population to more distant suburbs and a growing number of suburb-to-suburb trips, the traditional model failed to me meet the needs of PACE's traditional market. In response, the agency developed a wide array of services to meet the needs of niche markets, calling this approach the mass customization of mass transit. The key elements of PACE's strategy include:

  • Service coordination. Forty-two percent of PACE riders transfer to Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and METRA (the transit agencies that serve metropolitan Chicago). Coordinated schedules, timed transfers and coordinated fares help to create a seamless system.
  • Employer Outreach. PACE representatives work with employers to assess their needs and design custom services. Providing transit service in conjunction with business relocations to new suburban offices has been particularly successful. PACE works with employers and developers in the design of new buildings to ensure that pavement thickness is appropriate for buses and that driveways are large enough to accommodate transit vehicles.
  • Service Options. PACE operates eight types of vehicles and offers many forms of service, including subscription buses, vanpools and traditional fixed-route service, and strives to create new options that match particular market niches.
  • Partnerships. In addition to working with employers, PACE coordinates services with job training programs, social service agencies, sheltered workshops and other community organizations. For example, PACE provides service in coordination with Suburban J Job-Link.

In Chicago, employment transportation encompasses a wide range of transportation and non-transportation services and provides mobility for ordinary workers as well as welfare recipients. Partnerships between transportation providers, employers, job training programs and other social service agencies have been the key ingredient for success.

For more information contact:

John Plunkett
Suburban Job-Link Corporation
2343 South Kedzie Avenue
Chicago, IL 60623

Enid Spector 522-8700
West Algonquin Road
Arlington Heights, IL 60005

Detroit, Mich. - Multiple Strategies

Southeast Michigan is home to the city of Detroit and myriad suburban municipalities. Detroit, with just more than one million residents, has suffered in the last two decades from the decline of manufacturing and the pressure of foreign competition. In the wake of these changes, the city has endured double-digit unemployment and higher-than-average rates of dependency on public assistance. Ironically the motor city is now a community in which 33 percent of all households lack an automobile.

In contrast to downtown Detroit, the suburbs have grown and prospered. Light industry, warehousing, services and other sectors have flourished in the outlying areas. In some cases, suburban employers have even experienced labor shortages -- caused in part by the difficulty of accessing these employment opportunities.

Transportation services in Detroit are provided by the Detroit Department of Transportation whose services end at the city limits. In the suburbs, Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) is the transit provider.SMART s recent innovations emerged as a result of a threat to its existence. With no local funding, shrinking federal dollars and no increases in state support, SMART was running out of money. In conjunction with its successful effort to pass a local tax providing a source of dedicated funding, SMART redefined its market and developed several effective employment transportation practices.

  • Outreach. SMART networks with employers through Buses to Business breakfast forums. SMART works with the Michigan Department of Employment Security, local chambers of commerce, county economic development departments, the Michigan Jobs Commission and others who help get the word out to the business community that the agency wants to work with employers to change schedules and routing and will design special services to meet business needs.

    At each forum, held at 7:30 a.m., employers complete a survey inquiring about number of employees, hours of business and similar information. SMART compiles this information into a database to guide the creation of new transit services. To find the businesses and invite them to the forums, SMART purchased a commercially-available mailing list of companies in the area.

    Another outreach practice was the hiring of three ombudspersons whose job is to sell SMART. When calls come in from businesses, the ombudspersons are responsible for answering questions, setting up meetings and following through inside the agency to make sure that employer needs are met
  • Marketing. Among the most innovative of SMART's employment transportation activities are its marketing programs. The Get a Job, Get a Ride program gives new hires at least one month's free bus fare. The program is advertised through radio commercials. Another marketing mechanism is the Jobline. SMART designates one of its telephone lines to play a recorded message of available jobs located along bus routes. Additional information on potential employment is provided through contacts with the chambers of commerce, shopping malls and other employers. SMART advertises the Jobline on targeted radio stations in the Detroit area with a particular emphasis on radio stations with a large African-American market. The information includes the nature of the job, its pay rate and how to get there using SMART. At a minimum, Jobline generates 1,000 calls each week.
  • Planning. Since 1994, SMART has revised its fixed-route system to accommodate suburban job centers. This information was secured from the breakfast forums, local chambers of commerce, economic development groups, media reports and by plotting business data on a SMART route map through a GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping system. Consequently, the agency has significantly increased transportation to suburban job centers. The results have been noteworthy. Weekday fixed-route ridership is up over 15 percent since the change. On the weekends, the increase is greater than 25 percent. More than 50,000 businesses, or 40,000 employees, received new or improved service since the SMART tax in 1995. Employee shuttles, suburban-to- suburban park and ride routes and flexible routing are all part of the SMART service system.
  • Job Developers. SMART has taken the GIS mapping system one step further in helping people find jobs along bus routes. SMART is currently working with three separate employment agencies in identifying job openings along the suburban fixed-route system. SMART provides the job developers with a list of employers within 1/4 mile of the fixed route. Information on the employers includes the business name, address, telephone number, contact person, Standard Industrial Classification code and number of employees in the business. This approach allows job developers to target businesses that historically have openings for unskilled labor. The advantage to the welfare recipient securing a job is less travel time because there is better bus service and a permanent way of travel to work. Less travel time also means less dependency on day care. SMART is even working with a job development group to arrange bus connections and a stop at day care all in one trip.
  • Quality service. Another way that SMART serves the employment transportation niche is by guaranteeing the quality of its service. A widely publicized unconditional moneyback guarantee costs SMART less than $100 per month, but earns high marks from employers and riders. The guarantee is also a good incentive for SMART employees, since it encourages them to keep the buses clean and on time. When a complaint comes in, they know a supervisor will follow up with them.
  • Coordination. In addition to SMART, numerous social service agencies in suburban Detroit provide transportation services. Previously, even with 75 separate mobility providers, many disadvantaged members of the community faced transportation barriers. The long distances to be traversed, the eligibility limitations on social service transportation and a constrained pool of resources all inhibited the effectiveness of transit.

    In compliance with MPO requirements to coordinate, all the transportation providers had a history of coordination. This foundation led to the development of a computerized (Quo Vadis) reservation system allowing social-service agencies to schedule riders onto SMART vehicles, and vice versa. This concept is envisioned as an airline reservation system for transit, whereby users can book rides on vehicles from various providers through one coordinated system. SMART has been working toward this goal for three years, working out the technology and organization to allow a human service agency staff member to directly book client transportation. This approach harmonizes with the general trend in social service delivery to provide all services at a single one-stop location.

    SMART also has coordinated with social service agencies to solve employment transportation problems. For example, SMART teamed up with Operation ABLE, a human service agency that provides personalized job search, job placement, occupational training and career-transition services for job seekers 45 years of age or older. SMART had trouble meeting the transportation needs of Operation ABLE's clients in Detroit, since those who lacked their own transportation faced several transfers and discouragingly long travel times to take jobs in the suburbs. Through a Federal Transit Administration Joblinks demonstration grant, Operation ABLE leased a SMART vehicle to bring people from the city to one of the agency's two training sites. Operation ABLE viewed the dedicated vehicle as a boon to customer service because it provided pick-up service at home, which represented a cut above other public transportation and was widely appreciated by clients, especially during the winter months. Based on a survey of riders, the service was warmly received - all of the patrons were satisfied or very satisfied with the service, and used it four or five days a week.

    SMART has made a major investment in working with community-based service providers. Many of the 100 communities in the SMART service area operate paratransit service. Since its tax was approved in 1995, SMART has teamed up with many of these providers by contributing operating money and paratransit buses to operate service. While the community-based service is designed around the needs of older adults and people with disabilities, SMART has begun work-based demonstrations. A number of communities are providing linkages between the SMART fixed-route system and employers not along the fixed-route system. This activity is expected to grow significantly during the next five years

    The innovative practices evidenced in Detroit include an creative marketing program, restructured service to better serve the needs of employers, new technologies, and close coordination with numerous social service agencies.

For more information contact:

Dan Dirks / Ron Ristau
Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation
660 Woodward, Suite 950
Detroit, MI 48226
Phone: (313) 223-2100

Glendale/Azalea, Ore. - Rural Coordination

In recent years, as the timber industry hit hard times, southwestern Oregon has faced some of the worst unemployment in the nation, accompanied by high welfare enrollment and persistent poverty. The residents of two communities in this area, Glendale and Azalea, faced a 50-mile trek to non-timber jobs, medical services or shopping, and many faced a 10- to 20-mile journey to the local Glendale-Azalea Skills Center.

Under the leadership of the Glendale-Azalea Skills Center, the community adopted a combination of innovative strategies, including the use of school buses and development of volunteer carpools, to overcome its transportation gap.A total of 28 volunteer drivers, including homemakers, retirees and school bus drivers, provided rides for other members of the community. This network allowed people to access various education and employment opportunities located at the Skills Center an and/or in nearby cities such as Roseburg and Grants Pass, as well as to attend medical appointments.

Effectively marketing the service and recruiting volunteer drivers were the keys to success. A communications specialist created posters, press releases and fliers for on-going recruitment of volunteer drivers and riders. The service was highlighted by the local newspaper and TV news stories, which also called for volunteer drivers.

Skills Center staff attended numerous community fairs to promote volunteerism, supply information to the community on the project and solicit volunteer drivers and carpool participants. They matched drivers with people who needed rides.Another innovative practice to emerge from Glendale/Azalea was the use of school buses to transport the general population. While many communities have considered using school transportation for a more general ridership, Glendale/Azalea is one of the few that succeeded in convincing the local school district to allow community members to ride along with students. Counter to popular perception, research indicated that the integration of pupil and community transportation was not prohibited by law. It was, in fact, a priority of Oregon's Superintendent of Education. Local residents ride school buses for transportation to GED/Adult Education programs at the Skills Center, hopping on and off as the vehicles travel their usual routes.

Bringing together agencies at all levels to address transportation needs was key to the success experienced in Glendale and Azalea. The planning group included a Glendale School District representative, the Glendale School District business manager, the Oregon Department of Human Resources volunteer program manager, the Adult and Family Services district manager, a community member and a representative of the Douglas County Department of Health and Social Services. This broad-based coalition helped ensure support for the unique transportation solutions.

The success of efforts in Glendale/Azalea resulted from a strong commitment from the Glendale-Azalea Skill Center in incorporating pupil and community transportation, effective marketing of the service and maintaining a network of volunteer drivers.

For more information contact:

Carolyn Jeskey
1341 G Street, N.W., Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20005

Louisville, Ky. - Reverse Commute and Planning

The city of Louisville, Ky., is the state's largest urban center with a population of 665,000, and was designated a Federal Empowerment Zone. Bluegrass Industrial Park, the third largest development of its kind in the nation, is located in the eastern suburbs of the city and offers job opportunities in a wide variety of industries, at all levels of employment. Residents in the eastern side of Louisville enjoy a relatively high annual household income and low unemployment. In contrast, the west end of downtown Louisville is an area with few job opportunities and a large pool of potential workers. This area has double-digit unemployment, and transit-dependent would-be workers from the inner city have lacked direct bus service to the jobs-rich industrial fringe.

Employers in the Bluegrass Industrial Park claimed that a major barrier to filling job vacancies was a lack of transportation for people living within the city. Faced with a shortage of workers, businesses took unusual steps, as exemplified by the $8.00 per hour starting wage offered by a local fast-food establishment.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization in the area, the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency (KIPDA), together with the local public transit property, the Transit Authority of River City (TARC), established a new express route between inner-city Louisville and the Bluegrass Industrial Park, as well as a local circulator shuttle within the industrial park. Prior to this new reverse commuter service, residents of the west end traveling to the Bluegrass Industrial Park had to make three transfers and walk a long distance from the bus stop to the workplace, resulting in a two-hour, one-way trip.

In planning the new reverse commute route, KIPDA and TARC worked with a wide variety of employers, community agencies and local government entities. These organizations confirmed that there was a market for the proposed service, and promised assistance in referring riders from the target group. A comprehensive operational analysis undertaken by TARC further underscored the fact that there was a sizable unmet need for this service.

The new service includes two out-bound runs from the far west end of Louisville to the Bluegrass Industrial Park, and an additional eight runs starting from the central business district. Eleven in-bound runs complement the out-bound service. The travel time from the two endpoints of the express route is 45 minutes, with the bulk of the route traveled on Interstate 64. The peak cash fare is $1.00.

In addition to the express service, two local circulator shuttles operate within the Bluegrass Industrial Park. The huge size of the park, combined with a lack of sidewalks or streetlights, could impede a commuter's ability to get to their workplaces without the shuttles. Each of the shuttles operate on half-hour headways in the morning and afternoon. With a free transfer from the express route, there is no charge to ride the shuttles.

Specific programs were launched to develop ridership. KIPDA and TARC held meetings with community agencies, the local Private Industry Council and employers in Bluegrass Industrial Park to generate referrals. In addition, they made presentations to several chambers of commerce. TARC worked especially closely with social service workers and employment counselors in the inner city to identify potential riders. TARC produced attractive brochures illustrating the express route and the local circulator shuttles, as well as the schedules for each, and distributed them widely to employers, social service agencies and existing passengers. When job fairs were held at the Bluegrass Industrial Park, TARC provided free rides to the event and distributed information about the routes. Finally, TARC coordinated press coverage on the new route in the local newspaper.

Ridership surveys revealed that express- route riders tended to be transit-dependent commuters who lacked a vehicle. Generally, they worked in the food service, hospitality and retail industries. An overwhelming percentage of those surveyed reported that they rode the bus to work every day. Slightly more than half lived in the four zip codes of west Louisville that comprised the target area for the service. The initial success of the reverse commute express service has since allowed it to become institutionalized.

In addition to cash fares, TARC secured cash assistance from the municipality and support from employers in the form of a commitment to purchase employee bus passes. Jefferson County also pledged funding from the local occupational tax fund. Combined with federal operating assistance and local transit funds, these sources of funding are expected to sustain the service for the foreseeable future.

TARC has also developed an innovative joint development center - the Nia Neighborhood Travel and Jobs Center - which will become a focal point for public transportation service and information in the west end of Louisville. The Nia Center is adjacent to the intersection of two of TARC's most heavily traveled bus routes. Together, these two routes account for approximately 20 percent of TARC's average daily ridership. In addition, three neighborhood circulator routes, express service to Bluegrass Industrial Park, and TARC Night Owl buses serve the Nia Center.

A TARC Nia Center coordinator is available on site as a liaison to the other tenant partners and to the surrounding community including employers and government agencies. The TARC Nia coordinator works cooperatively with employers to design and deliver specialized, cost-effective transportation services for employees living or working in the area.

Partners in the Nia Center and campus include: the Workforce Development Partnership Center which is dedicated to providing employer-driven training for residents in the Louisville Empowerment Zone; the LCBD Enterprise Group, providing small business incubator and business management support services; and the Louisville Business Resource Center, providing information and advice for small business owners.

TARC has also launched a service it calls Nia Night Owl Job Link to meet the needs of late-night shift workers: People living or working in Louisville's Empowerment Zone can take a 20-passenger shuttle bus between home and work from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. daily. To be eligible for the service, all one needs to do is pre-register.

The successful practices evidenced in Louisville include sound planning to recognize unmet employment transportation needs, coordination of transportation and social service resources and development of public-private funding partnerships.For more information contact:

For more information contact:

Kelly Tyra
Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency
11520 Commonwealth Drive
Louisville, KY 40299
Phone: (502) 266-6084

Minneapolis, Minn. - Multiple Strategies

The reverse commute program in Minneapolis had a grassroots beginning. In 1990, companies in the suburbs of the metropolitan Twin Cities area were exploring innovative ways to transport inner-city job seekers to workplaces in the suburbs. For example, one company used taxicabs, while another bought a used car for several workers to share. While effective for individual companies, these piecemeal attempts did not meet the larger need to connect inner-city workers with suburban employment; this need was the genesis for a reverse commute program known as Destination Jobs.

In 1992, the Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce created the Reverse Commute Committee to facilitate employment opportunities for the inner-city unemployed through transportation linkages to the suburbs. The Reverse Commute Committee consisted of representatives of business, transit agencies, government and training and employment agencies.

The reverse commute effort was intended to bridge the gap between southwest metro communities, an area with one of the fastest rates of jobs creation in the region, and the inner-city population, which has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the Twin Cities. Prior to launching any service, a job fair was held to identify and recruit sufficient riders with employment in the suburbs -- a key to establishing a viable service. As a result of the job fair, 85 inner-city job seekers obtained employment.

The job fair was a considered a tremendous success because it radically changed the dynamic of reverse commuting and employment options for inner-city residents of Minneapolis. It promoted the concept of reverse commuting and provided a new influx of riders.

Following the job fair, Destination Jobs, a two-leg reverse-commute route was established. An express bus picks up riders in the city and drops them off at a suburban transit hub, where two small buses take riders to work sites. The service is available Monday through Friday and currently serves approximately 75 riders per day. Riders are required to make reservations for a round-trip at least 24 hours in advance. The one-way fare is $2.

The Hennepin County (Minn.) Department of Training and Employment Assistance provides an Emergency Ride Home program to every rider who needs to get back home in an emergency. This Emergency Ride Home program serves as an inexpensive incentive for riders to participate in the reverse commute program, although very few have used it.

To take advantage of the mobility provided by Destination Jobs, businesses have been willing to alter their shifts and community service agencies have provided training in targeted areas to meet business needs. Destination Jobs also has helped riders make the transition to transportation self-sufficiency. Program staff estimate that, on average, a rider uses the reverse commute service for six-to-nine months before seeking out his or her own transportation.

Overall, the key to the success of Destination Jobs has been the collaborative approach. The project has brought together the suburban business community, the Southwest Metro Transit Authority (SMTA), the nonprofit inner-city neighborhood employment agencies, various community organizations and local governments. A key activity that helps sustain the reverse commute program is the previously mentioned annual job fair which provides a positive environment for prospective employers to meet with inner-city job seekers. Destination Jobs is also marketed through job training agencies and the schedules published by the SMTA.

The demand for reverse commuting has been growing rapidly. Currently, the Reverse Commute Committee is exploring the possibility of establishing more fixed routes from early morning until 11:00 p.m., so that employees working the second shift can also be served.

Hennepin County is also launching several other initiatives designed to help welfare recipients get to work.

Fare Assistance Program

Additional funds have allowed Hennepin County to purchase bus passes from SMTA. The monthly passes are available to employment and training providers for distribution to Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) clients. MFIP clients are offered passes at a greatly reduced rate. Bus passes are available for three months, or until the first paycheck, whichever comes first.

Employer and Agency Incentive Program

Selected employers and employment and training agencies are reimbursed $100 per month for up to three months for each MFIP client whom they provide with transportation service during their first months of employment. Innovative pilot projects initiated by employers or agencies that serve MFIP clients transportation needs have been awarded start-up funding. Employers and agencies are selected to participate in this program if they have one or more of the following:

  • On-site child care;
  • New transportation service carpools, vanpools, shuttles, etc.;
  • Transportation service during second and third shifts or on weekends;
  • Reverse commute service; i.e., from Minneapolis to suburban area employment transportation services; and
  • Organizing transportation services between malls, industrial parks and other business-intensive developments.

Funding from employers and employment agencies financed transportation service for 700 clients, each for a three-month period. Hennepin County administers this program, including marketing and development of resource materials.

Transportation Coordinator

Central coordination of transportation sirvices was needed during the early stages of the MFIP. A transportation coordinator would be responsible for:

  • Distribution, interpretation and referrals of transit schedules;
  • Referrals to agency, company and community transportation services;
  • Referral to special programs (vanpools, carpools and special low rate purchase);
  • Training of workforce center staff on transportation options;
  • Assist community volunteer coordinators in identifying opportunities for linking other volunteers with unmet client transportation needs; and
  • Update electronic transportation service directory.Continued need for the services will depend on how quickly training and employment providers and MFIP clients become familiar with transportation options

McKnight Foundation Matching FundsOne of the conditions of the McKnight Foundation funding to various geographic areas of the county is that local resources match a portion of the funding. Working groups were formed in seven geographic regions of Hennepin County to develop welfare-to-work strategies ranging from jobs and training development to building child care to transportation issues. The plan proposes to reserve a portion of metropolitan council funding for use in matching funds for McKnight Foundation resources.

Hennepin County regional networks have not submitted funding requests for specific transportation-related projects. The Hennepin County welfare-to-work transportation liaison will work with the regional networks to assure that expenditures are consistent with metropolitan council criteria and guidelines. The liaison will assist regional networks in determining specific data needed for reports to the metropolitan council.

The innovative practices evidenced in Minneapolis include: A commitment from collaborating transportation and social service agencies, a well-coordinated annual job fair to help inner-city residents obtain employment and to promote the reverse commute concept and a service design that responds to local needs and geography.

For more information contact:

Ron White
Hennepin County Training andEmployment Assistance
300 South 6th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55487
Phone: (612) 348-7551

Zuni, N.M. - Rural

The Zuni Pueblo is located in rural northwestern New Mexico in McKinley County, 150 miles west of Albuquerque. It is the largest, most remote and most traditional of the 19 Indian Pueblos in the state. The people of Zuni have maintained their unique cultu culture by perpetuating both their language and religion. However, their efforts to preserve their unique culture have not been without economic costs. Half of the population have annual household incomes below the federal poverty level, while the unemployment rate hovers at 67 percent. Nearly one-fifth of all households in the community have no vehicle.

Recognizing the high demand for employment and education transportation, the Zuni Entrepreneurial Enterprises, Inc. Public Transportation Program (Z.E.E.), obtained a Joblinks grant from the Community Transportation Association of America to develop, implement and maintain a transportation program linking unemployed individuals to job training and meaningful employment. Z.E.E. is committed to providing transportation service to people who are currently unemployed/ underemployed, individuals requiring specialized transportation assistance, individuals who are not able to attend vocational training due to lack of transportation and persons with disabilities.

Z.E.E. has developed a responsive and specialized transportation system:

  • Z.E.E. s Joblinks-funded vehicles have served 61 Zuni Pueblo residents, taking them to jobs, training, interviews and educational opportunities largely in Gallup.
  • Z.E.E. has completed an application to develop a vanpool and submitted the application for financial assistance to the state of New Mexico to provide general public transit.
  • Z.E.E. has developed a model for employment and education transportation services that can be replicated for other rural Native American communities in the country.

Z.E.E. is operating employment/education transportation services within the Zuni reservation and to Gallup, New Mexico (a center for shopping, employment, entertainment, banking and other support services) five days a week, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Dis Dispatch is coordinated with all collaborating agencies.

The project keeps track of the impact of the transportation program through a database of individuals served. Following the completion of the demonstration period, Z.E.E. plans to publish a report which can be used by other Native American communities desiring to initiate similar services. This report will discuss cost of services, challenges encountered, strategies and recommendations on how to initiate and maintain services.

In summary, Z.E.E. recognized the need for both employment and education transportation in the entire target area, and has designed and is operating services to address these unmet transportation needs.

For more information contact:

Larry Alflen
Zuni Entrepreneurial Enterprises, Inc.
Public Transportation Program
Zuni, NM 87327
Phone: (505) 782-5798

Lowell, Mass. - Multiple Strategies

Approximately 16,000 people in Massachusetts will be transitioning off welfare assistance in less than 12 months. More than 1,300 live in communities covered by the Northern Middlesex Jobs Access Center. Even though the Massachusetts economy is thriving with plenty of work and higher incomes, there continues to be a mismatch between job openings and qualified workers. According to a recent study, 127,000 people are looking for work, and this number does not take into consideration the people due to come off welfare roles who must find a job.

The Lowell Regional Transit Authority (LRTA) covers 11 cities and towns, with 1.6 million daily riders on 18 different routes. Located in Lowell, Mass., the LRTA serves an area with a high concentration of poverty (17.3 percent). Currently 613 people have been targeted to be the hardest-to-employ and are eligible for welfare-to-work initiatives in the Greater Lowell area. The majority of the recipients reside in Lowell, Billerica and Tewksbury.

The LRTA, in an innovative new approach to enhance transportation services, has developed a Transportation Access Center (TAC). The TAC is a nonprofit, public-private partnership dedicated to providing alternatives to commuting alone and to addressing related issues through the involvement of the private sector.

Driven by the business community, the TAC addresses the needs of a broad scope of individuals including both existing commuters and new commuters, many of whom will be transitioning from welfare to work. The TAC coordinates existing transportation resources in the Northern Middlesex area with shuttle transportation service developed in cooperation with partner companies, a guaranteed ride home program to create increased opportunities for people to utilize public transportation, vanpools and carpools.

The TAC received approval for two grants from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation and Construction (EOTC) in May of 1998. The first grant will provide partial funding for the TAC itself, while the second grant will furnish two new buses to be used to create a flexible shuttle service for area employees. The LRTA, in cooperation with University of Massachusetts/Lowell - Center for Work, Family and Community, conducted an in-depth survey of over 350 businesses that concluded that the lack of public transit was a major barrier to finding new employees.

The two grants were made possible by the hard work of a task force made up of over 20 community leaders and agencies who have worked diligently to develop a plan to improve access to jobs, and with the encouragement of EOTC Secretary Patrick Moynihan.

The TAC is the centerpiece of the proposed Jobs Access Center (JAC). The JAC will provide one-stop services for job training, job placement, child care services and public transportation or other commuter options such as vanpools and carpools. While pas past plans have focused on individual programs for job training, job placement, transportation and child care services, the JAC proposal brings all these elements together through partnerships with the private sector and existing community- based programs. Additional funding is being sought through various state, federal and private sources.

Key Innovative Elements

The JAC will maximize the available opportunities for employment, child care and transportation services for the hardest-to-serve recipients transitioning off public assistance. It will coordinate the activities of three centers: the existing One Stop , the TAC and the Child care Services Center. The coordinators at these centers will work together to establish referral, eligibility and skills assessment of recipients, job readiness training and suitable placements; resolve child care concerns (second and third shift issues, as well as weekend child care); and provide transportation connections to employment and child care if it is identified to be a barrier to obtaining and retaining employment. The JAC seeks to serve all persons in the Northern Middlesex area identified by the state Department of Transitional Assistance as the hardest to serve individuals.

The Northern Middlesex JAC will be located in Lowell at the Career Center's One-Stop office. It will be easily accessible by public transportation. The JAC services will be provided through a pre-established referral system that is linked to its community-based partner agencies and to the One Stop, the TAC and the Childcare Services Center (CSC). Many referrals will come directly into the JAC's Referral Information Center (RIC), while additional referrals will be received at the identified community outreach posts. The RIC coordinator will enter all client referral information into the JAC's integrated data base and then will forward the referral for eligibility determination to the One Stop and then to the appropriate service center who will provide a referral to the appropriate partner service agency. Additionally, recipients may be referred directly to the One Stop Career Center who require additional support services for successful employment. The Career Center's Welfare-to-Work employment coordinator will screen the client for eligibilty and enter referral information into the data base which will be a component of the JAC's integrated data base system. Support services requests will then be forwarded to the RIC coordinator for routing to the TAC and/or CSC.

Recognizing that there are significant employment barriers which characterize the target group (such as, substance abuse, lack of high school diploma or GED, low math and reading skills, poor job history or never employed before, learning disabilities and language barriers among others). The coordinators will work as a team to identify and procure assistance through community-based partners to remove these barriers.

The JAC model uses a holistic approach to assisting recipients in meeting their employment goals. The JAC is interactive. It provides a link between area business partners who have positions to fill and partners serving current public assistance recipients who must find employment. The employer partners in the JAC have committed over 150 Work First employment slots to the 150 job placement candidates identified for service through the grant. The average wage at placement is expected to be $8.75 per hour. The average wage after the first nine months of employment is expected to be $10.25 per hour plus benefits. Additionally, the JAC expects to service 450 people (300 for Work-First slots and/or support services through this grant and 150 persons receiving placement services through formula funds who require transportation and family-based supports such as childcare to successfully transition from welfare to work).

Throughout this process described above, the transportation services delivered through the TAC are the centerpiece of the Jobs Access Center. Working in concert with the One Stop and the CSC, transportation profiles and transportation resource options are developed for each client which promote choice for employment opportunities and child care locations. The LRTA's formula for success is: JOBS + TRANSPORTATION + SUPPORT SERVICES = EMPLOYMENT SUCCESS.

For more information contact:

Robert Kennedy
Lowell Regional Transit Authority
Phone: (978) 459-0164

Ventura County, Calif. - Service Design

The Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC) has worked with the county of Ventura on the welfare-to-work effort as part of a multi-agency, county wide team. In addition to VCTC, the team included representatives from the county social service agen agency, labor unions, local colleges, other human service agencies and the school system.

The goal of the taskforce was to increase welfare recipients' access to transportation services; more than 50 percent of the county's welfare recipients lack a reliable car to get to work.VCTC which oversees the use of transportation dollars for the county, recommended, and is currently implementing, the following changes to transit service:

Improving coordination between transit systems: By revising transit schedules, VCTC has significantly reduced the length of time that it takes for commuters to travel through the county. Adjusting bus schedules by just 5 minutes has meant that transfers to other transit vehicles are smooth; commuters no longer have to wait a long time to make connections. A testament to this improved coordination -- ridership has increased in the county.

Extending hours and days of service: The largest transit operator in the area has extended hours of service on many of its routes, and has added four routes of additional service on Saturday. The motivation for adding additional bus lines on Saturday was an on-board survey of riders which indicated that people would use the Saturday buses to get to jobs at shopping malls and to other job sites. These changes clearly reflect the employment transportation needs of county residents; Saturday schedules currently match the hours of the weekday schedule.

Creating a Day Pass for Santa Clara Valley Transit riders: Since September 1997, Santa Clara Valley riders have been able to use a $1.50 'day pass' to travel to work. The pass, targeting Santa Clara Valley residents who are primarily low-income, enables riders to transfer between dial-a-ride service and a mainline feeder bus.

Developing a Smart Car-Sharing Program: The Smart Car-Sharing Program is designed to provide transportation in areas or at times when public transit is not available or the transit trip takes too long to get to the job site.As part of its program, the VCTC will also be working with local welfare caseworkers to issue special smart cards that can be used on all county bus systems. Through new computer technologies, caseworkers are directly scheduling trips to work for clients.

The VCTC has an Internet website (http://www.goventura.org/) to help provide the latest information on transportation options. Finally, a Guaranteed Ride Home program is available to transit riders to quell fears of being unable to get home in an emergency . Currently, 1,500 people have registered for the Guaranteed Ride Home program, and transit riders are using it.

For more information contact:

Ginger Gherard
Ventura County Transportation Commission
Phone: (805) 642-1591

Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services - AdVANtage Program

Anne Arundel County is located in central Maryland in close proximity to both Baltimore and Washington. Although the median household income is higher than the national average, there are very poor and isolated populations around the county. The county al also trails only the city of Baltimore in the number of people living in public housing in the state of Maryland.

The Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services (DSS) has had a long and successful history in helping people move from welfare to independence. For years, DSS has concentrated on the barriers to employment that are caused by the lack of transportation services.

In 1997, DSS undertook an effort to help ease the transportation burden in Anne Arundel County by creating a transportation micro-enterprise program for welfare recipients. People currently receiving cash assistance would be provided training and other help to start their own passenger transportation businesses.

The DSS recruited entrepreneurs from among its customers. The YWCA was then hired to provide business training to the selected entrepreneurs. Help was also provided to help the fledgling businesses obtain working capital, certification as a passenger carrier and follow-up networking. Six individuals completed the training course and four new businesses have been started as a result of the project. Each of these businesses has demonstrated the ability to continue past the demonstration phase of the project.

For more information contact:

Vesta Kimble
Anne-Arundel County Department of Social Services
Phone: (410) 269-4603