Chapter 6.1: Transportation Alternatives
Transportation alternatives are categorized according to the type of assistance provided to the target population:
- Services Provided - includes job access initiatives that directly relate to the provision of a service such as transit services, job training services and job search activities.
- Support Services - includes programs that provide support to the target population to access job access initiatives such as car loan/repair programs, guaranteed ride home and existing programs redesigned to supplement job access services.
- Service Coordination - includes initiatives designed to coordinate existing and newly developed job access services. Transportation Management Associations, transportation brokers, and partnerships among non-transportation agencies are all ways to provide coordination.
- Target Population Participation/Purchases - includes programs designed to equip the target population with the necessary tools to purchase job access services such as transit passes, gas vouchers, training activities, etc.
Vanpool and rideshare programs allow workers with similar commute schedules to travel together. These services can be customized to meet specific transportation needs of the target population including daycare stops. Program variations and other considerations include the following:
- Rideshare in the form of carpools where a willing car owner, recipient or non-recipient, drives and passengers contribute to the cost of fuel. Driver reimbursement may also be in the form of subsidized gas vouchers.
- Non-profit agencies, private organizations or employers may operate vanpools or contribute to the operating cost.
- Offering the service to members and non-members of the target population increasing the opportunity for common origins and destinations.
- Subsidized carpools or drivers of carpools may be limited to a 6-month period or until the individual is able to purchase a car or establish alternative carpooling arrangements.
- Vanpools and rideshare programs may be the only feasible alternative in rural areas where other transportation services are not available.
- Outreach and promotion efforts are critical to reach the target population to inform them of their options.
Shared-Ride taxis operate similar to rideshare programs in that rides are shared among individuals with common origins and destinations. Private transportation companies and taxi services are often under contract to provide this service.
On a per trip basis, shared ride service may be more expensive than other alternatives. Consequently, the service may be limited to specific activities, such as job search or interviews, and limited to a certain length or time.
Fixed Route Transit Expansions
Fixed route transit service expansions can improve mobility, particularly in urban and suburban areas. The degree of necessary improvement is based on existing levels of service and the needs of each particular area.
Reverse commute service is an increasingly popular service for filling the gap between city residences and suburban employment centers. In addition to meeting the needs of employers and employees, reverse commute helps to eliminate deadhead miles on bus routes that normally provide the traditional suburb to city commute.
Extending existing routes is another option. Expanding routes to serve growing suburban employment centers, day care facilities, malls and other high demand areas expands the options for employment to the target population.
Collector routes transport people to major transit hubs and facilitate timed transfers to fixed route services. These routes can be adjusted when connecting services are running late.
Extending service hours on existing fixed routes can accommodate non-traditional work shifts, 2nd and 3rd shifts, and weekends. Targeting areas with potential to serve malls or other types of business generating ridership at night may justify added service hours.
Dial-a-ride service, demand response and paratransit services generally operate door-to-door or curb-to-curb services. These services primarily operate in areas where fixed route service is not available or accessible, often in suburban and rural communities or at non-regular peak periods. Rides are usually scheduled in advance and trips are shared among passengers whenever possible. Service may be limited to a specific group or population; however, making the service available to the general public may increase ridership and the likelihood of service to common origins and destinations, thereby increasing productivity.
Employers and transportation organizations may operate shuttle services. A hotel, for instance, can extend its guest shuttle service to its employees, providing rides to and from work, to/from a transit hub. In one program, absentee rates decreased tremendously among employees and the state reimbursed the employer for a portion of the cost.
Other innovative implementation strategies include utilizing the down time of school buses to operate service during specific afternoon and night shift times to employment centers.
Volunteer Driver Programs
Volunteer driver programs can be administered by a government agency, non-profit organization, faith-based or charity organization. Volunteers drive agency cars or their own vehicle and are generally reimbursed for mileage or fuel.
Some programs operate on a donation basis by accepting contributions for mileage.
Transportation to Child Care
Transportation for childcare raises complex issues of access, cost and quality. Partnerships between childcare providers (particularly those located along fixed routes or in and around transit hubs) and transportation providers may create mutual benefits that are passed on to the target population. Providing a map of childcare facilities and transit routes can assist the target population in selecting an accessible daycare. A map might also be useful for referral agencies and job placement specialists. Increases in the frequency of service, bus route extensions and additional bus stops can make it easier for parents to access child care.
Locating childcare facilities in and around transit hubs is an alternative many communities are considering in future development plans. Transit hubs are highly accessible and provide connections to the regional transit network. However, the cost of childcare facilities in these areas and the desire of parents to use them are factors to consider in pursuing this approach.
Transportation Resource Coordinator
Transportation Resource Coordinators are responsible for helping individuals obtain reliable public, private and subsidized transportation for work-related trips. Transportation Coordinators may teach individuals how to use available transportation services, and help them determine which transportation options best meet their needs. Working in conjunction with job placement specialists and case managers, Coordinators serve as a referral for individuals who are seeking transportation assistance.
Coordinators are generally located with other services such as job training, job search, childcare, or appointments with a job placement specialist or case manager. In addition to information, coordinators can provide bus passes/tokens, route and schedule information, gas vouchers, car pool and other program information.
Cross-utilization of Vehicles
Many communities provide special transportation services for the elderly and disabled population. The vehicles used for these special transportation services may be used during off-peak hours for job access initiatives. For example, HeadStart vehicles are used only during specific times of the day, and could be used at other times for job access initiatives.
Another opportunity for cross-utilization of vehicles is school bus transportation. Members of the target population, specifically parents, may ride to job search and other related activities via school buses serving the same area. During off-peak hours, school buses can transport individuals to interviews, job training activities or a second or third shift schedule job. School buses may also serve as shuttle vehicles from transit hubs to large employment centers located in the suburbs or other areas where fixed route service is unavailable. This arrangement may pose concerns for some areas due to adults riding in the same vehicle with small children. In some instances, the school bus insurance carrier may prohibit the use of buses for non-school activities.
Communities have addressed these conflicts in the following ways:
- Individuals may ride on buses that do not transport small children and only for specific trip purposes, such as traveling to education or training facilities.
- Consent from the parents of other children riding the bus must be obtained.
- To eliminate putting the driver in a position of having to monitor the adults, members of the target population are trained to serve as bus monitors while riding.
- The administering agency has the right to refuse trips to passengers.
- The State of Ohio recently passed a law that allows school buses to be used for job access activities.
Many parents fear working outside of their neighborhood without a means of transportation in case of an emergency. The fear of being stranded or unable to react quickly to children's emergencies can deter individuals from accepting a job. Guaranteed ride home programs function as an insurance policy offering rides home in crisis situations. States and job placement agencies can contract with existing TMAs or taxicab companies to provide this type of service.
One approach is to allow commuters utilizing public transportation a limited number of free bus passes or taxi vouchers to use in emergency situations. Some guaranteed ride home programs extend this type of service to those at risk of losing their job. Rides to and from work are provided on a short-term basis while their car is being repaired.
Auto Ownership, Maintenance, Repair
The personal automobile is the most practical, long-term solution for many people living or working in suburban and rural areas to access and sustain employment. A reliable automobile is essential to providing access to jobs and childcare. Agencies have implemented numerous strategies , including car purchase and car maintenance/repair loans.
Loan programs designed to enable the target population to purchase automobiles not only assists them in acquiring reliable transportation, it also helps them establish a credit history. It is important to establish guidelines and eligibility requirements as part of the program to minimize abuse and ensure the efficient use of funds.
Eligibility requirements for car purchase loans may include the following:
- Individual must be actively participating in the TANF program.
- Individual must be working a minimum number of hours per week and/or be employed for a minimum number of days/months.
- Individual or family must demonstrate a minimum amount of disposable income based on the monthly payment.
- Individual must have a valid driver's license.
- Individual must sign up for rideshare programs (in some cases).
Loans are generally pre-determined not to exceed a set dollar amount. Some programs allow the individual to supplement the cost of the vehicle, or use a vehicle they currently own as a trade-in. Loans are often free of interest or other fees and must be paid back over a period not to exceed 24 months. Payments may begin immediately or after a set period of time to allow the individual to become more financially stable. A loan committee may review each loan and serve as the final decision-maker on loan approval or denial.
Program incentives for car purchase loan programs include payment forgiveness for a certain number of months to individuals who have been continually employed throughout the terms of the loan. Pay stubs are accepted as proof of employment.
Loans to assist with repairs may be designed similar to the car loan program with the exception of shorter repayment periods. Car repair loan programs provide small loans to the target population to assist them in maintaining reliable transportation to sustain employment; loans may also assist in covering the cost of insurance. An additional benefit is that it may also help them to establish a credit history.
Guidelines and eligibility requirements can include the following:
- Individual must be actively participating in TANF programs including job search activities, completing required assessments and be in compliance with their financial advisor and job placement specialist.
- Individual must demonstrate a minimum amount of disposable income.
- Individual must provide proof of vehicle ownership and insurance verification.
- Repairs must be approved prior to applying for the loan.
- Vehicle must be needed to ensure employment and/or education plan.
Individuals may select a mechanic from a list of repair shops provided by the administering agency. Partnering with repair shops willing to do the work simplifies the process, and payment for repairs can be mailed directly to the repair shop.
In some areas, local automobile dealerships have donated cars to a particular agency to use for carpools and rideshare service, or donated to individuals provided they are working and able to maintain employment. The agency may hold the lien on the vehicle during this time.
Vehicle maintenance is an important aspect of owning a car and owners should be educated on proper vehicle maintenance. Some communities require individuals who receive loans to attend training on how to own and maintain a vehicle. Programs to purchase or repair automobiles are eligible for grants under TANF and WtW, but they are not eligible under the JARC program. JARC supports mass transportation such as carpooling, shared-ride and special paratransit services.
Bus passes provide a form of immediate transit subsidy. It is important that passes allow transfers to other routes and/or services. Some areas are moving toward the implementation of a universal pass enabling the passenger to transfer to and from other routes and services. Bus passes can be in the form of coupon booklets, debit cards, or a monthly pass.
Gas vouchers can be offered until the individual becomes financially stable or finds an alternative mode of transportation.
Activities such as funding transit passes, construction of childcare centers and employment support facilities are not eligible for JARC funding, but they are eligible for grants under TANF and WtW programs.
Technological advances have improved efficiencies in the provision of transportation services. Software applications, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis, Automatic Vehicle Locators (AVLs) and electronic kiosks can be used to increase the capabilities of existing and new transportation services.
Automated scheduling and dispatch software can dramatically improve the process of scheduling rides particularly for demand response or vanpool services. Most software applications are able to collect large amounts of data, enabling staff to retrieve information and evaluate performance quickly. A trip planner can enable case managers and others to plan trips via the Internet. By entering an origin and destination address, staff can quickly locate route and schedule information for their clients. Ride matching capabilities allow staff to connect participants in need of temporary or emergency transportation with volunteer drivers.
The use of GIS has significantly impacted the welfare to work planning process, particularly in identifying the unmet transportation needs of the target population. To effectively use GIS, the data must be accurate and complete. Job placement specialists and other staff can assist in obtaining data by gathering information from the target population during the interview process. Some states require that transportation needs be identified up front as part of the target population's work assessment.
Tracking the target populations' home origins and employment destinations, time of travel etc., can be extremely useful for job access planning and can be managed via a database application. This information on travel patterns can help determine the relationship between the service area and the target population.
Transportation brokers provide coordination to maximize resources, simplify transportation service delivery, and help to access transit services and information.
Transportation brokers administer a variety of services, such as arranging vanpools, serving as a liaison between employers and transportation providers, and coordinating the delivery of services. Brokers may also offer advice to the target population and agencies on the purchase of services. They often work directly with the target population, employment counselors, and transportation service providers to address transportation needs.
Transportation Management Associations
Transportation Management Associations (TMAs) are non-profit organizations that facilitate communication between transportation providers and employers, particularly in suburban areas where transportation improvements are needed.
TMAs provide transit education and outreach to employers, participate in focus groups and offer technical assistance to job trainers and placement intermediaries. The services offered by TMAs often extend to operating vanpools, ridesharing programs, guaranteed ride home programs, and access-to-jobs services. They may also provide assistance in writing proposals and other planning activities.
Change in Service Approaches
Welfare reform has forced planners, social service agencies and community leaders to "think outside the box" when it comes to the delivery of transportation services. Traditional job access planning does not adequately address the complicated needs of the target population as they attempt to identify their place in workforce.
Welfare to work job access planning has opened the door to assess transit services from a wider, regional level. Regional planners and transit providers must question the coordination and level of service offered in the region. These questions may include the following:
- How well are services integrated in the region?
- Can connections between services easily be made? Are connections available?
- Is the fare structure user friendly or confusing to passengers?
- How well do services meet the needs of parents traveling with children?
- Do planning efforts address the perspective of employers, social service agencies, job placement agencies, and health providers?
- How can job placement agencies participate in planning and implementation of welfare-to-work transit programs?
- What information should transportation planners bring to social service, health care, childcare, and other service organizations to improve client access?
Many areas throughout the country are addressing similar issues and are beginning to establish a seamless network of transportation services. Although planning can be a difficult and complex task, the outcome leads to greater coordination and improved transit options for not only the target population but the general public as well.
Coordinating a regional fare structure is one approach to encourage additional use. Parents are easily discouraged by complex fare structures for transferring and for paying for their children. Offering no-cost transfers between services is another solution to increase coordination and simplify the transit experience.
As mentioned earlier, traditional planning efforts have evolved in recent years to include a variety of participants and innovative approaches to providing services. Coordinated land use and job access planning has become a priority for many communities. Planners and community leaders are recognizing the need for future developments to include amenities that support the needs of the target population and general public.
Examples of coordinating planning efforts include providing incentives to locate childcare facilities at transit centers and encouraging mixed uses around transit. Additional incentives include creating work opportunities in residential areas through economic development tools, providing affordable housing near transit centers and increasing the housing density in transit corridors and around transit facilities.
Some states require that counties develop a transportation plan in collaboration with their county departments of human services, regional transit authorities, community action agencies, other private non-profit and government entities.
Partnerships are an essential component of successful transportation initiatives. Through the coordination of stakeholder efforts, a variety of multi-agency and multi-disciplinary partnerships can develop. Although many of the organizations involved in these partnerships serve the same target population, their services have traditionally been considered unrelated.
Through the formation of multi-disciplinary partnerships, transportation providers and social service representatives can expand their knowledge of the universe of job access services available.
The use of common terminology is critical to successfully communicate and achieve cooperation among agencies and must be fully understood by all parties.
Sponsoring breakfast meetings with the local chambers of commerce, employers, transit agencies, and other organizations provides a forum for building relationships. Employers can provide information regarding work shifts, number of employees and other pertinent information to incorporate into job access plans. Employers, in turn, learn about transit services available to their employees.
Roundtable discussions can also provide job placement specialists and transportation experts an opportunity to identify transit-accessible entry-level jobs along with any necessary route and schedule enhancements.
Job placement agencies often possess valuable information on the willingness of the target population to travel to better jobs. Transit providers can, in contrast, offer information on employers that subsidize transit or provide employer-owned links to fixed route service. Coordinated efforts can improve access for the target population, and enhance the productivity of existing transportation investments.
Many service organizations have a vested interest in providing access. These agencies can participate with implementation of some aspects of programs, including marketing efforts, bridging transit and paratransit systems, and co-funding transit routes.
Changes in the welfare system have drawn attention to the significance of employer support in unsubsidized employment and work activities. As planning efforts move toward a more work-focused approach, communities begin to confront the challenge of bridging the gap between welfare reform program needs and employer needs. Traditional efforts have focused on longer-term education and training rather than building ties with employers. Helping the target population attain good job searching skills and identifying promising job leads remains an important component of services that should be provided. Actively recruiting employers to hire individuals and forming ongoing partnerships with the employer community is a promising approach as well.
Determining the best way to build a partnership between the target population and the employer begins with communication and coordination. Employers need to become better informed of the barriers the target population faces transitioning into the workforce, and job placement specialists need to know what employers seek in employees. Flexibility in this partnership is also important, particularly for employers, as they must be willing to assume some risk when hiring individuals from the target population.
Involving a liaison to assist in developing the relationship between the welfare agency and the employer can be helpful. The Chamber of Commerce is a good example, considering the existing relationships these organizations have established within the business community.
In some cases, the Chamber of Commerce has conducted surveys of local businesses regarding the types of job skills that employers seek.
Another way to establish a link between job training, placement agencies and prospective employers is to assign an ombudsman to establish long-term relationships, marketing outreach with businesses, training staff and community and government leaders. An ombudsman is also responsible for working with businesses to identify employment opportunities and transit requirements, in addition to working with communities to incorporate transportation services into their planning process.
Inviting employers to be guest speakers at job search sessions provides an opportunity for the target population to understand what employers seek in employees. Sharing this type of information directly with the target population is often more meaningful than second hand discussions.
Marketing is an important aspect of gaining employer involvement. These efforts should be specific to the market. For example, employers will be more likely to participate in a subsidized program when the details and benefits are clearly presented; the same is true for prospective employees.
One of the benefits available to employers who participate in employer-subsidized transportation is a tax deduction. Employer expenditures on special transit pass programs for employees are tax deductible or exempt from FICA, Workers Compensation/Disability Insurance, pensions, payroll or unemployment taxes. As a result, job retention rates improve while employers show their support by investing in the success of their employees. Federal tax law allows employers to provide up to $65 a month to subsidize an employee's transit or vanpool commute. The employer can deduct these costs as business expenses and the benefits are not taxable income to the employee. As an example, one employer joined forces with the local transit agency to provide service from inner-city neighborhoods to a job location for the late shift. Under this scenario, the employer pays 50% of operating cost while the transit agency was responsible for the remainder. Tax credits are also available to employers who hire individuals from the target population and those who provide on-site daycare for their employees.
Faith-Based Community / Private Charity Involvement
Some communities are exploring joint efforts with private charity involvement and the faith community. These organizations often have the ability to individualize their approach to the circumstances of the target population and may be less restricted than government agencies in the delivery or provision of services. Volunteer driver services, mentoring programs and childcare are initiatives these organizations have implemented.
One example of an unconventional transportation alternative is a bicycle donation program. Under these types of programs, unclaimed bicycles are picked up by local law enforcement and donated for use by members of the target population who do not have access to a vehicle or live within walking distance of a bus line. Variations in climate will dictate how applicable this program is to each area; however, it is a unique approach for utilizing existing resources.
Park and Ride Lots at Childcare Facilities
Park and ride lots located along transit routes offer commuters the option of parking their vehicle and using transit services. Allocating parking spaces for transit users at childcare facilities served by bus routes is another example to consider. This arrangement enables commuters to conveniently park their car, drop their child off at daycare and use transit for their commute.
Target Population Participation/Purchases
Organizing joint job and transportation fairs provides an opportunity for the target population to learn more about transportation options and employment opportunities in one place at one time. A successful job fair will require a significant amount of coordination involving a variety of organizations such as transit agencies, employers and social service agencies. Employers should be encouraged to develop transportation plans or transportation incentives for employees.
Training/Education - the Target Population
Education and training provided to the target population should include the necessary tools to utilize available transportation services. Individuals in larger cities may be familiar with the public transit system in their neighborhood, however, the jobs they are qualified for may be located elsewhere. Similarly, individuals living in the suburbs may be unfamiliar with transportation services in their area because services provided are generally fewer and operate differently than in the city.
Publishing a "transportation guide" is one way to disseminate information. The material should serve as a "how to" guide for using transit services, reading schedules and maps, and making connections to other services. Distribution outlets could include resource centers (one-stop shop facilities), childcare facilities, job placement agencies and others who have direct links with the target population.
Members of the target population may be uncomfortable or afraid of using public transportation for the first time. Most often, a lack of understanding causes the uneasiness over how the service operates. Some communities have established "bus ambassador" programs underwhich an individual is accompanied on an initial bus ride and instructed on transit stops, fares, and schedules. Another option is to dedicate an individual to answer questions, provide information materials, schedule rides and distribute bus passes or tokens. The individual may also serve as a resource for car loan/repair program information.
Training/Education - Staff
Providing consistent staff support to the target population from the time they enter into job training programs throughout various stages of employment is essential to the success of welfare reform. Caseworkers, job trainers and others who have direct contact with the target population should be aware of available public transportation services. Professionals who understand the services can expand the options available to the individual. Similarly, staff who are able to recognize the limitations of transit services such as "unreasonable commutes" are more likely to make more effective placements.
Training should include understanding bus schedules and maps, fare structures, transfers, distinctions between different services, fare mediums and service characteristics. Staff should be able to coordinate job placement and transportation services for the target population with confidence and good judgement.
Integrating services under one roof is a convenient approach to making resources accessible to the target population. A "one-stop shop" concept offers a variety of services including employment training, job searching, interviewing rooms, and areas to hold workshops for potential employers and employees. In addition to these services, some centers have included distribution of transit information, passes, case-management, income-maintenance support and on-site childcare. Kiosks providing locations of these services are helpful as well.
Initiatives should promote the goal of self-sufficiency, be sustainable over the long run and maximize the use of existing services. It is important to be aware that programs are subject to funding eligibility and guidelines.