Local leaders to investigate commuting disparities

In an effort to improve New Haven residents’ access to jobs that are moving out to surrounding towns, a consortium of regional organizations met last week to discuss improvements to public transportation.

Carl Amento, director of the South Central Regional Council of Governments, said he organized the consortium in response to reports released by the local NAACP chapter and non-profit DataHaven, revealing the region’s public transportation to be inadequate in providing job access for Elm City residents. The consortium, which includes the NAACP, the Connecticut Workforce Alliance, the Connecticut Economic Resource Center and DataHaven, will conduct a study to determine the specific issues that are hindering job access to better inform future policy recommendations.

“We need to be more responsive to the migration of employment out of New Haven,” said NAACP President James Rawlings. “There are a lot of barriers in place for equal economic opportunity”

DataHaven’s study Community Index 2013 reported that though New Haven is home to over 47,000 “living wage” jobs, making it the labor capital of the region, only 19 percent of these jobs are held by New Haven residents. Workers from low-income neighborhoods hold only 4 percent of these jobs.

The first step to building a plan to fix the transportation problem is to find out specifically how city residents end up with such long commutes, Rawlings said.

Amento said that the cost of eventually increasing access to public transportation will depend on the report’s findings. If there are large groups of commuters going from one neighborhood in the city to a certain area for work, the solution might be as simple as shifting or expanding bus routes, he said. If commuters are heading in many different directions, it may be possible to set up a carpooling system.

DataHaven and the Connecticut Economic Resource Center submitted a proposal to SCRCOG outlining their $12,000 proposal to develop a report that will document regional “spatial mismatch,” or the distance between the concentration of jobs and the concentration of people. Amento said spatial mismatch is a result of job sprawl, as employers create more jobs on cheaper property out of town in rest areas and industrial parks.

“Job access could probably be improved with access to housing near where they worked,” Abraham said. “It’s an indication that they can’t afford to live near where they work.”

Amento will submit the proposal to SCRCOG on Wednesday and is hopeful that the organization will use a Connecticut Office of Policy and Management grant to fund the study. He plans to complete the study by the next legislative session so they can start lobbying efforts.

Of those registering for CTWorks, a statewide program for job seekers, 84 percent identified transportation as a barrier to employment opportunities, the Community Index reported.

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