Moving Rural Residents to Work: Lessons Learned from Implementation of Eight Job Access and Reverse Commute Projects

By:    Eileen S. Stommes , Dennis M. Brown , and Capree M. Houston .
Food and Rural Economics Division,
Economic Research Service,
U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Rural areas present special challenges for meeting the transportation needs of individuals, especially people without cars. Recognizing this, the Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program was established by Congress in 1998 to assist States and localities to develop transportation services to connect welfare recipients and other low-income residents to jobs and other support programs. This study documents case studies of 8 rural areas receiving JARC funding in fiscal year 1999. The report highlights specific program elements, including the implementation process, transportation services provided, and the solutions developed to deal with the challenges of distance and low population densities that rural transit systems frequently face.

Keywords: Rural transit, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), transit, transportation, welfare reform, Welfare-to-Work (WtW), Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

Washington, DC 20036-5831 December 2002


JARC, Rural Transit, and the Welfare Reform Context
      JARC -- Program Description
      Welfare Reform
             WtW Grants
Study Design and Study Site Characteristics
Program Planning and Implementation
      Application Process
      Community Impacts
Outreach and Marketing
Opportunities and Challenges
Post-Implementation Perspectives - Lessons Learned from JARC
Rural Transit [BOX]


Transportation is key to moving welfare recipients and other low-income residents to employment and related services. Access to employment is often limited for individuals without cars who live in areas without public transit. Even in areas with public transit, spatial and temporal mismatches can limit access to employment. Rural areas, in particular, present additional transportation challenges. Close to 40 percent of all rural counties are not served by rural transit, while another 28 percent have limited service. And, nearly 57 percent of the rural poor do not own a car, while 1 in every 14 households in rural America has no vehicle.

To deal with these issues, Congress created the Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) grant program in 1998. JARC was established to move recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to employment, training, and other support services. Designed to encourage development of new transit (passenger) services or expand existing transit, JARC was to complement the individualized transportation assistance provided by human service agencies. The program authorized $750 million through 2003, with 20 percent of funding originally designated for rural, nonurbanized areas.

This study examines how rural organizations implemented a new Federal transit program that created new requirements and provided new funding options. It focuses on implementation from the perspective(s) of the organizations providing JARC service. Eight rural projects in the fiscal year 1999 funding cycle were non-randomly selected to represent geographic diversity, organizational diversity of the implementing agency, and degree of rurality of study counties. Projects funded during 1999 were selected since it was expected that they would demonstrate the entire project cycle of planning, funding, and implementation. Data were gathered from the Federal Transit Administration, local implementing agencies, the Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. ERS conducted interviews with the program official of the implementing organization, two partners identified by that organization, and, in some cases, State officials. Study sites are spread across the Nation, and include communities in California, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. Implementing organizations range in size from a single-county human service agency to multi-county transit systems.

Study results suggest that JARC faces challenges and opportunities unique to rural areas, where long distances and light population densities present temporal, spatial, and financial challenges to serving TANF recipients and low-income residents. Agencies demonstrated a considerable degree of flexibility and innovation in overcoming these barriers, with a diverse array of organizations being involved in planning, funding, and implementation of service. Multiple layers of governance were also involved, including national, State, regional, and local jurisdictions. Funding sources included Federal TANF and Welfare-to-Work (WtW) funds, State and local government sources, and private monies. While not specifically required by the JARC program, most participants emphasized that program success -- measured by job placement and retention -- depended on employer involvement from the beginning of the program planning process throughout implementation.

Each project was tailored to individual community needs, so that some projects emphasized work trips, others emphasized trips for training, while still others combined trips for work, training, and support services, along with service for the general public. In several locations, JARC created the basis for new partnerships that continued after implementation. Overall, the program, as implemented in the rural study locations reviewed in this report, opened up new opportunities for TANF recipients and low-income residents.

Yet barriers to transit access remain for both TANF recipients and other low-income residents living in rural areas. Participants all indicated that they were unable to meet the transportation needs of every eligible recipient since the cost per ride was simply too high in sparsely populated rural areas, the time required to fill a vehicle was too lengthy, and jobs were sometimes located too far for transit to reach in a timely manner. Reliable funding also remains a critical issue, with several participants expressing concern about losing service if Federal financial support is withdrawn in the future.

Moving Rural Residents to Work

Lessons Learned from Implementation of Eight
Job Access and Reverse Commute Projects

Eileen S. Stommes
Dennis M. Brown
Capree M. Houston


In 1998, Congress established the Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) grant program to help move recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and other low-income residents to employment and support programs. Arising out of the landmark welfare reform legislation in 1996, which set strict time limits for receipt of benefits, including transportation, JARC was part of the main highway funding legislation -- the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). JARC was designed to provide incentives to encourage use of new or existing transit systems as an alternative to the individualized transportation assistance usually provided by human service agencies.

To better understand how different rural communities implemented this Federally funded transit program, this study examines 8 rural JARC projects funded in fiscal year 1999. Case studies were non-randomly selected to represent differences among JARC implementing organizations, program partners, regions of the country, degrees of rurality, demographic characteristics, and client groups.

Because the JARC program required organizations to partner in providing new or existing transit-based transportation services, the report covers organizational and coordination issues. These include planning and implementation, partnerships, funding, services, outreach and marketing, and sustainability. It also examines the range of transportation and support services provided and funded through JARC, and it specifically highlights opportunities and challenges to JARC implementation in rural areas as identified by the organizations carrying out the program. The report concludes by summarizing various lessons learned in using the JARC program to move TANF recipients and other low-income recipients to employment in rural areas.

JARC, Rural Transit, and the Welfare Reform Context

JARC was established in 1998 as an amendment to TEA-21 (49 USC 5309). The legislation provided the following rationale for the program:

However in rural areas, access to employment is even more restricted by lack of transportation:

Transportation, a key to job access, training, and childcare, is consistently cited as among the most important issues for meeting the goals of welfare reform (Dewees, 1998). Yet rural areas present particular challenges for meeting individuals' transportation needs, particularly for people without cars. Longer distances between urbanized areas and places with low population densities create a spatial divide that often cannot be bridged without a car -- or without public transit. While 60 percent of rural counties have some transit, roughly two-thirds of these systems are single-county or city/town in scope, and the individual has access to a limited range of employment destinations (fig. 1 PPT, fig. 1 Word) (Community Transportation Association of America, 2001b). And, since not many jobs are usually located in sparsely populated rural areas, and such locations are unlikely to have public transportation, this leaves residents there with little choice but to travel long distances to work (Dewees, 1998).

Lack of transit, especially in rural areas, may limit the ability of human service agencies to move TANF recipients and other low-income residents to jobs, training opportunities, and other support services. Insufficient or nonexistent transit may also affect the local economy and its ability to support employment opportunities in several ways (Burkhardt, Hedrick, and McGavock, 1998). For example, it can reduce the local customer base for a range of services, including shopping malls, medical facilities, and other transportation services. Local residents interested in attending community colleges or other local educational facilities may also lack access to those training opportunities without transit service. And, rural locations with amenities may lose potential tourists who would otherwise have visited such communities using transit. Especially in those communities whose residents commute to adjacent metropolitan areas, lack of transit can contribute to congestion, thereby degrading the quality of life there.

In theory, national economic efficiency requires that Federal or State transit investments offset anticipated underinvestment by localities, human service agencies, and the private sector in local transit systems. This anticipated underinvestment partly results from a failure to consider non-local benefits (or externalities) when making local transit investment decisions. In rural places with relatively high per capita capital and maintenance transit costs, such as in sparsely populated locations with large land areas that require lengthy routes to fill transit vehicles, local demand for transit may be insufficient to pay for transit system costs without Federal or State subsidies. In addition, transit users in rural areas are often largely female, elderly, and/or disabled, especially in high-poverty areas (fig. 2 PPT, fig. 2 Word). Given the Federal commitment to assure that the poor and their families are sustained under the new welfare-reform system, there is a strong national interest in helping States and localities provide adequate transportation services to these vulnerable rural populations.

JARC -- Program Description -- The JARC grant program was designed to assist States and localities to develop transportation services to connect TANF recipients and low-income individuals to jobs and other support services. It encompasses two different components: Job Access and Reverse Commute. The Job Access element encourages the development of an array of new or expanded transportation services, including shuttles, connector services, and new bus routes, while Reverse Commute focuses on providing transportation to suburban employment centers from urban, suburban, and rural locations. JARC identified the eligible population as TANF recipients and individuals with incomes at or below 150 percent of the poverty line as defined by the Community Services Block Grant program.

Congress authorized a total of $750 million from the Mass Transit account of the Highway Trust Fund and from the general fund for fiscal years 1999 to 2003. TEA-21 set out a formula allocating specific funding which guided fiscal year 1999 allocations. Eligible projects in urbanized areas with populations of 200,000 or more received 60 percent of total funding; small-urbanized areas with populations of 50,000 to 200,000 received 20 percent; and nonurbanized, rural areas (with populations less than 50,000) received 20 percent. The recommended maximum grant amount for nonurbanized rural areas was $150,000. After fiscal year 1999, legislation allowed for greater funding flexibility among these three categories.

Administration of grant applications also varies according to population. In urbanized areas, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), a local transportation planning organization recognized by the Department of Transportation (DOT), selects the applicant(s). In small-urbanized areas and in nonurbanized rural areas, the State transportation department selects the applicant(s). Tribal governments go through the State process, but once selected, they can submit their application as part of the State process or can apply directly to DOT.

JARC introduced several new factors into Federally funded welfare reform programs, changing the criteria for rural transit providers and others providing human service transportation. First, by its placement in DOT, JARC focuses on transit, moving TANF recipients and other low-income residents to employment, training sites, and support services. Other federally funded programs aimed at reducing welfare rolls, including TANF and Welfare-to-Work (WtW), provide transportation assistance to individual clients on an as-needed basis, paying for such items as car repair, insurance, and taxi fares. JARC is the only welfare program that provides transportation funding to transit systems, not individuals.

Second, JARC funding parameters differ from other Federal transit programs. The program requires a 50-percent funding match for JARC funds, that is, to receive funding each provider must qualify and secure at least 50 percent of the total cost of the project. JARC allows the use of certain Federal funds to meet the local match requirement. For example, TANF monies from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and WtW funds from the Department of Labor (DOL) are eligible matching fund sources for the JARC program. A JARC project can be 100 percent Federally funded.

Third, a key feature of JARC is an emphasis on developing new transit routes and services to fill transportation gaps -- while other programs typically provide transportation assistance to eligible recipients only. Gaps can be geographic, where jobs are either inaccessible to existing public transit or where low-income residents live in areas lacking public transit. Or, they can be temporal, when transit does not operate during certain periods of the day when individuals need to travel to and from work. For example, this may include second- and third-shift time slots, during the 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. timeframe. While targeted groups stand to benefit from such an expansion of services, the wider community also benefits.

Fourth, JARC requires coordination of transportation services by participating organizations as a condition of funding (Federal Register, 1998). Coordination is required during all stages, including planning, implementation, and for the duration of the project. While many rural transit organizations already partner or coordinate with other local organizations, JARC explicitly requires demonstration of an operating partnership in its application for funding, emphasizing the Federal focus on leveraging transportation funds for TANF recipients and other low-income residents.

Fifth, although JARC was established to expand transportation options for TANF recipients and other low-income residents, the program did not limit funding to only transit agencies. Rather, local agencies and authorities, non-profit organizations, State entities, and regional transit authorities are all eligible for funding.[1]  JARC, however, does require the involvement of existing transit systems in areas where it is operational. By broadening the applicant eligibility pool to non-traditional entities and requiring coordination among local organizations, JARC is more flexible than other transportation programs, thus creating the potential to broaden transportation services to rural communities.

[See Rural Transit]

Welfare Reform -- JARC was designed to complement ongoing Federal welfare reform. In particular, two major initiatives are of note: 1) Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), administered by HHS; and 2) the WtW program (Nightingale, 2001), administered by DOL. A third initiative, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA), does not directly address welfare reform, but provides educational and training support for welfare recipients, among other eligible clients. The 1999 JARC program unfolded as these three new Federal programs began implementation simultaneously at the Federal, State, regional, and local levels throughout the country.

TANF-The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), also referred to as the 1996 Welfare Reform Law, transformed the Federal welfare system. While PRWORA reforms affected programs in several departments, TANF is key to implementing JARC objectives. TANF replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), establishing new program requirements. Key TANF elements include lifetime benefit limits, work requirements for welfare recipients, greater flexibility for States to run the program, and stronger child support enforcement mechanisms.[2]  TANF can be administered either at the county or the State level, although, in practice, TANF is generally administered at the county level, with the State setting the overall policy and program framework.

TANF gives broad flexibility to States, tribes, and communities to provide transportation to individuals moving off welfare and into the workforce. TANF funds can be used for a range of transportation services, including work trips, workforce training, and childcare. States have used TANF funds for transportation in a variety of ways, including car purchase/lease programs, car repair, payment or insurance and parking, transportation vouchers, vanpools, and matching other Federal funds to purchase transportation services.[3]

A key TANF issue affected implementation of JARC in fiscal year 1999. Since TANF benefits are considered "assistance," and count towards the five-year lifetime limit on TANF benefits, questions arose about JARC service. HHS clarified the definition so that JARC transportation is considered assistance under the 60-month limit rule only if JARC service is received in conjunction with TANF benefits. TANF can also be used to support community transportation activities, including planning and start-up of transportation services or brokering of transportation services by various organizations through a central agency.

WtW Grants-- In 1997, Congress passed the Balanced Budget Act, which provided $3 billion for WtW grants (split between fiscal years 1998 and 1999). The funding was targeted to high-poverty communities where the employment objectives of TANF might be difficult to attain, and where the communities would bear increased costs when long-term welfare recipients had reached lifetime limits on welfare. WtW grants, which are administered by DOL, are narrowly focused on providing employment assistance to hard-to-employ TANF-recipients and non-custodial parents. Grants are provided to States, local communities, and tribes, and can be used for job-readiness activities, including transportation assistance (Nightingale, 2001).

WIA-- Congress enacted WIA to replace the fragmented Federally funded employment and training system (U.S. General Accounting Office, 2001b; U.S. General Accounting Office, 2002a). WIA requires that 17 programs administered by four Federal agencies (DOL, the Department of Education (DOE), HHS, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)) make their services available through "one-stop" centers and that the operations of these centers be supported. These programs demonstrate a wide range of funding and service delivery methods, and involve public agencies, community-based organizations, tribal governments, community development organizations, and non-profit organizations. (Six out of our 8 case studies involved WIA programs in the JARC planning and implementation process.)

WIA divides workforce development services into three tiers, each a different level of training assistance. The first tier is core services and deals with providing job search and placement assistance. Next are intensive services, which provide more in-depth assistance. The third tier is training services. Both intensive service and training service components can involve transportation.

WIA requires the development of partnerships to deliver training services, including transportation. In particular, WIA recommends partnering with two programs also associated with JARC: TANF and Food Stamps. WIA also called for development of Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), which replaced Private Investment Councils, to oversee implementation at the State and local levels. These boards were to include broad representation of the workforce investment sector, including business, labor, education, and other organizations experienced in delivering employment and training services.

Study Design and Study Site Characteristics

The overall objective of this study was to gather information on how selected rural organizations implemented the JARC program in fiscal year 1999. The study focused on the following key program components: 1) planning and implementation; 2) partnerships; 3) funding; 4) program services; 5) outreach and marketing; 6) program sustainability; 7) opportunities and challenges; and 8) program implications/lessons learned. As such, it examines how rural organizations implemented a recently-established Federal transit program that instituted new requirements (that is, mandating local organizational collaboration) and provided for expanded funding alternatives (allowing for certain Federal funds to match JARC funds). The focus of the study is on the implementation process from the perspective(s) of the rural organization(s) providing JARC services.

Eight projects were non-randomly selected to represent geographic diversity, organizational diversity (of the implementing agency), and degree of rurality (of participating communities). Projects funded during fiscal year 1999 were selected since it was expected that they would demonstrate the entire cycle of project planning, funding, and implementation issues. Also, unlike in future years, where some projects were designated for funding by Congress, fiscal year 1999 projects were selected by DOT.

Data were gathered from the following sources: the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the DOT agency that administers JARC; local implementing agencies for each of the 8 case studies; the Census Bureau; and the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis. ERS conducted interviews with the JARC program official of the grantee organization and two partners identified by that official. These interviews covered broad issue areas, and allowed the organizational representative to talk about planning, partnerships, barriers, overall degree of satisfaction with the program, fit with the organization and community needs, and lessons learned from participation in the JARC program. In some instances, we contacted the State JARC official for further information about the State role in program implementation as it affected regional and local program status.

Study sites are fairly evenly spread across the Nation, and include communities in California, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas (fig. 3, PPT, fig. 3, Word).[4] nbsp; Population across all study counties in the 1990's grew at a substantially slower rate than in the Nation as a whole -- recording an overall 3.2 percent increase, compared to a 13.2 percent gain for the U.S. (table 1). Study counties tended to have older populations than the Nation as a whole (with a 2000 median age of 39 versus 35, respectively). They also had higher overall unemployment rates compared to the Nation, 5.3 percent versus 4.8 percent for the Nation as a whole in 2001. Female unemployment rates of 5.3 percent were somewhat lower compared to the 5.8 percent rate that prevailed in the Nation in 2000. However, they had fewer women with children under the age of 6 years than in the Nation -- 12.2 percent versus 13.9 percent for the Nation in 2000. Also, the percent having at least a high school degree was almost 5.5 percentage points less in study counties in 2000 than the national median. Less than 1 percent of the work force used public transportation in the study counties in 2000 compared to 4.7 percent for the Nation, reflecting the absence of major metropolitan centers. And, poverty levels were slightly higher in study counties -- 13 percent versus 12.4 percent for the Nation in 1999. Study counties are predominantly dependent on either farming or manufacturing, or are non-specialized in economic activity, and are characterized by a high level of commuting, persistent-poverty, or transfer-dependency (table 2).

Twenty-eight of the forty study counties have aggregate urban populations between 2,500 - 20,000. However, twelve of the counties were completely rural, having an urban population of less than 2,500, presenting a challenge to providing transit service, as distance and low population densities may make it difficult to develop economically viable transit services there.

Organizations providing JARC service range in size from a single-county human service agency to a nine-county regional transit agency (table 3). Organization structures are diverse and include a county-level agency, a Community Action Agency, a municipal transit authority, a Council of Governments, and a regional human service agency. All 8 case studies were Job Access projects, with none of the projects categorized as Reverse Commute under JARC.

Program Planning and Implementation

TEA-21 required that JARC project planning be part of a coordinated transportation planning process, not an isolated event that included the project alone. Planning was to be comprehensive and inclusive, and connected to a Statewide transportation plan that included all types of surface transportation, that is, transit, rail, and intercity bus (Federal Register, 1998). Each State was responsible for working with MPOs and rural areas to ensure that the statewide transportation system met the needs of all the populations within the State. This was the case for the study areas, with each project included in its Statewide transportation plan (as required by FTA).

Application Process-- The November 6, 1998 Federal Register notice described the application requirements for fiscal year 1999 JARC program funding. The Notice detailed the application process for the three categories of program applicants: MPOs; small-urbanized areas; and non-urbanized, rural areas. The process was different for each category. In metropolitan areas, MPOs were to select the applicant(s) to forward to FTA for funding. In both small urbanized areas and in non-urbanized, rural areas, States were to select the applicant(s). Tribal governments would apply through the State application process, but once selected, could choose to be either a sub-recipient of the State or work directly with FTA. Applications were sent to 10 regional FTA offices, and forwarded to FTA headquarters. To streamline the application process, FTA urged MPOs to designate a single recipient, who would submit a consolidated application. States also were urged to serve as the designated recipient for JARC grants to small urbanized areas and non-urbanized areas, with the State suballocating funds to project participants.

For this study, half the grantees applied through their States, the other half applied directly to FTA (table 4). Two transit agencies applied directly to FTA via one of the 10 regional FTA offices, but two other regional government transit systems (in Maine and Iowa) applied through the State. Iowa summarized individual projects in its application, while Tennessee packaged all applications together and forwarded them to FTA. The Spirit Lake Tribe (North Dakota) sent their application to the State, but after receiving the grant, worked directly with FTA, in accordance with the options offered by the FTA notice.

Participation-- Our study revealed broad involvement by diverse rural organizations in the planning process (table 3). Multiple units of government often participated in planning, especially in those locations involving a Council of Governments, a regional organization, or a Planning Commission, since these governmental organizations were formed to represent a region or cluster of counties.

Different departments within each government agency also participated in the planning process. This was the case in Del Norte County (California) which included the County Department of Health and Social Services as the grant recipient. Its planning partners included Del Norte County, Crescent City, and Paratransit Services (the transit provider contracted for the service). Two Del Norte county departments were also involved in planning -- the Community Development Department via its planning function and the Department of Health and Social Services. Crescent City (in Del Norte) included the city planner and the financial director.

In some locations, State government agencies were involved. Typically, these were the State human service agency and/or the State labor agency, which included workforce training or other work-related support services. State government agencies often served as a technical resource for the planning process.

Tribal representation characterized Spirit Lake (North Dakota), where the Tribal Council is the primary agent for all programs and services operated by the Tribe. The planning process also included a government-to- government association with both State and county Human Services agencies and the State Labor agency, representing an additional layer of collaboration.

Organization type varied by project, with several participants commenting favorably on the level of inclusiveness in the planning process. In some cases, colleges, which provided a mixture of statistical expertise and/or training opportunities for eligible clients, were included. In other cases, rural applicants included adjacent MPOs as partners, indicating an enhanced awareness of the regional nature of transportation planning. In one case -- in Maine -- the Regional Tourism Association was included, reflecting the importance of this industry in the southern part of the State.

Reporting-- The Federal Register Notice indicated that FTA expected grantees to "monitor the performance of their JARC services" and that "performance monitoring indicators are necessary" (Federal Register, 1998; p. 9). At a minimum, the 1999 grantees were expected to provide information on several categories: 1) new, expanded service; 2) increased accessibility to jobs and support services; 3) use and productivity of service; and 4) collaboration.

The application process determined reporting procedures. Grantees who submitted their applications to the State reported their progress/results to the State, and the State, in turn, submitted reports to FTA. Likewise, grantees that submitted applications directly to FTA also reported results directly to FTA. Reporting intervals were not specified in the 1999 Notice. Some grantees filed reports on a quarterly basis. For example, Iowa reported quarterly on all their JARC grantees, including their rural recipients. Others followed the standard annual reporting requirement for rural transit systems.

In 1999, FTA utilized an electronic grant making and reporting system, called Transportation Electronic Award and Management (TEAM). Use of TEAM requires staff training, provided by FTA, and the ability to access the Internet. TEAM allowed program applicants the option to submit reports electronically to FTA in place of print documents. Since JARC was open to non-transit organizations, many participants were not familiar with TEAM. Of the 8 case studies, only two submitted TEAM reports -- and those two agencies were transit operators.


A key component of JARC was its emphasis on partnerships among agencies sharing responsibilities for moving TANF recipients out of welfare and into employment. FTA rated applicants on the basis of coordination and consultation with local organizations involved with TANF recipients and low-income residents. Partners included not only organizations funding JARC, but also those involved in a supportive or complementary role. These latter organizations provided outreach, referred clients to the program grantee, donated meeting space, facilitated information exchange, or supplied other services that contributed to implementation of the project.

Several themes emerged around the partnership motif. First, in rural areas, the pool of potential partners was relatively small, and many of the partners, facing resource limitations, had cooperated in a variety of joint activities before JARC. However, one grantee pointed out that although subgroups of the partners had worked together before on common issues, welfare reform and JARC got them "all together around the same table." JARC often provided the catalyst for partnerships to implement a joint program.

Second, new partnerships formed as a result of JARC. In North Dakota, the Spirit Lake Tribe worked with two State agencies and Benson County, along with private employers not on the reservation, to transport Native Americans to employment locations. In fact, as the program began, a new telemarketing business opened in nearby Devil's Lake, offering immediate local job opportunities. The Spirit Lake Tribe initiated contact with the telemarketing firm, utilizing JARC funding to transport workers to the telemarketing operation. In Tennessee, the Southeast Tennessee Human Resource Agency (SETHRA) reached out to CARTA (Chattanooga Area Regional Transit Agency) to locate employment sites outside the SETHRA region, and coordinate transportation to those locations. The York County Community Action Corporation in Maine involved the local Chamber of Commerce and a regional tourism association, both new partners. York County had unemployed workers, while the tourism association was seeking workers for coastal tourism destinations outside the York County region -- transportation was the missing link that JARC could provide.

Third, JARC provided an opportunity to cement partnerships among participating organizations around common program concerns. Program grantees and their partners both emphasized this partnership-building theme, regardless of whether or not their partnership existed before JARC. For example, in Tennessee, it had been difficult for State transportation and human service agencies to cooperate previously on transit issues since each agency had a different system for allocating the costs of transportation. The State Department of Finance and Administration conducted a study to outline actual costs of transportation, building a common-cost vocabulary to communicate on transportation issues across agencies. When JARC funding became available, the Tennessee Department of Transportation was able to hold meetings to discuss partnering with the State human service agency to move TANF recipients to employment locations. This understanding at the State level allowed local human service agencies to cooperate with transit agencies on JARC projects. In Illinois, JARC allowed RIDES, the program grantee, to institute additional service for a local college offering Federal training programs to provide transportation for students otherwise lacking mobility options. And, in Iowa, California, and Maine, JARC grantees and their partners indicated that the projects allowed them to cement relationships with partners, a positive development from their perspective.

JARC also served as a springboard for further cooperation on issues unrelated to the program. In California, a partner indicated that participating organizations were leveraging resources more effectively to serve clients in other programs that cut across agency jurisdictions. To gain the needed ridership for JARC, the California partnership networked with employees, leading to a skills training effort for TANF recipients and low-income residents that piggybacked onto existing organizational relationships. After seeing the success of a 1999 JARC project that created a new route, a new partner, a Native American casino, joined the original project team and financed a second route linking a central downtown location with the casino. This route served tourists, casino workers, and the general public who visited recreational locations, employment destinations, and other areas. And, in Iowa, program partners strongly emphasized a desire to bring in more employers to expand job opportunities for Job Corps trainees who had gained valuable on-the-job experience at locations outside the transit service area. JARC provided access to those new locations.

Fourth, JARC partnerships evolved during project implementation. For example, in Maine, the local Chamber of Commerce was very active in the early planning and implementation phases of program service. The Chamber helped publicize the service, emphasizing its benefits to businesses located in tourist destinations facing worker shortages. The Chamber was thus able to identify itself as an organization promoting business interests in obtaining needed workers and as a local organization assisting the community in giving low-income residents access to jobs outside the immediate rural community. Once the JARC service was underway, the Chamber played a less visible role, available as an advisor when needed. Meanwhile, in North Dakota, the Spirit Lake Tribe adapted its original transit plan to provide JARC service to a new employer. It identified a telemarketing firm that had opened its doors in Devil's Lake as the project began. The Tribe quickly began providing JARC service to the telemarketing firm, and reached out to other Devil's Lake employers, primarily healthcare providers, and succeeded in moving Native Americans into positions in the health care industry.

Fifth, program partnerships met client/customer needs that could not have been accomplished by one agency operating independently from the partnership. Grantees and their partners reinforced throughout the interviews their newfound appreciation of the partnership approach to service delivery. For example, in Illinois, where Southeastern Illinois College (SIC) serves as a WtW agent, many education and training clients lack access to transit that can move them to jobs and other support services. SIC partnered with RIDES since no public transportation was available and students needed transportation to multiple job destinations. The partnership benefited both RIDES, by increasing its ridership in sparsely populated rural areas, and SIC, by providing access to jobs for their WtW clients. In Maine, the grantee, the York County Community Action Agency, serves a rural area with pockets of above-average unemployment (compared to the Nation as a whole), while an adjacent tourist destination faces a shortage of workers. The human service agency in the York County area did not have adequate funding to transport TANF recipients and other low-income residents to jobs outside their service area. Through the JARC project, the York County Community Action Agency partnered with the human service agency and the regional tourism association, and linked human service clients and low-income residents with jobs in nearby tourist destinations -- an accomplishment each organization could not have done independently. And, in Iowa, the partnership between the Western Iowa Transit System (WITS) and the Job Corps focused on providing Job Corps students with on-the-job experience in locations up to 70 miles outside the WITS service area. The Job Corps center is residential, and is focused on training troubled, hard-to-employ youth from a wider area in Iowa. Without JARC funding, on-the-job opportunities were limited to the local service area, a place with limited, low-wage, entry-level positions. Accessing locations out of the service area led to training opportunities with more employers able to offer higher-wage positions with greater potential for long-term employment. On-the-job experience with these employers led to greater employer confidence in the trainee, and trainees were more willing to relocate when offered a job in an urban location since they already had work experience and were familiar with the urban environment.

Sixth, grantees and their partners not only collaborated in preparing their applications, but they also maintained their partnerships throughout the implementation process. Successful implementation of JARC was dependent on maintaining organizational partnerships to sustain the project once the application had been successfully funded. The grantees often displayed a considerable degree of energy, creativity, and level of commitment in their efforts to maintain a working partnership throughout the project. For example, SETHRA, the Tennessee grantee, held a total of 30 meetings during the grant period. These meetings provided a forum for discussing rural transit issues among program partners as well as other organizations seeking transportation funding, expertise, or contact information. Such partnership building came about as a result of JARC, and was an important step towards developing broader organizational collaboration within the region -- an area that is part of Appalachia and is characterized by significant levels of poverty and geographic barriers to transportation, resulting in long-standing transit deficiencies. Meanwhile, RIDES, the Illinois grantee, used a combination of communication techniques to involve ongoing partnerships and build new connections with partners, customers, and the larger community. Meetings were held every other month, and partners created a manual for RIDES staff containing instructions for providing transit service to program customers. In August 1999, a monthly Job Access newsletter was sent to partners, riders, legislators, and community leaders, and the grantee used its Web site ( to publicize the program and provide routing, scheduling, and contact information.


JARC had different local match funding requirements than other DOT transit programs. The local match was 50 percent, which could be met through the use of other Federal funds, a practice seldom allowed for other programs that require State or local matches.

As shown in table 5, the projects demonstrated a considerable degree of diversity in funding partners. JARC complemented TANF and WtW funding to encourage TANF recipients and low-income residents to move into employment and to provide employment support services. TANF funding was used in the California, Illinois, Maine, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee projects. WtW funding was used in California, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and proposed for the Texas project. But, other funding sources were also used. In Maine, local businesses, a regional planning commission, county commissioners, and the county United Way contributed to the project. In Texas, a local transit agency and the MPO pledged staff time as an in-kind contribution. In North Dakota, the Tribal Nation drew on a wide range of funding sources, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a housing authority, and adult vocational funds.

Local match funding for the 8 projects can be summarized as having local, regional, State, mixed jurisdictional, and/or Tribal Nation collaboration (table 6). For example, Illinois relied on funding from State and local human service agencies, State WtW outlets, and various local sources. Maine used a mixture of public and private funds, combining State and regional human service TANF funding, State and regional TANF monies, regional planning commission funds, United Way money, and local business funding. And, North Dakota utilized a range of Tribal Nation funding from several Federal sources, as well as contributions from a housing authority. (For a detailed listing of local matching funds, see Appendix Table 1.)

Funding partners tended to reflect the clientele of the grantee organization. Where the focus was on training, the JARC grantee typically worked with WtW partners. This was the case in Iowa's partnership with a residential Job Corps Center. In contrast, Illinois garnered support from a broad array of State and local organizations, including TANF and WtW, transporting low-income and TANF recipients to employment and training centers located outside the transit region. In California, the program went beyond JARC service to serving the general public. The project used TANF and WtW funding to develop a transit system that served not only TANF recipients and low-income residents, but also the general public. Initial reluctance to support a "glorified taxi service" gave way to public support for transit as the project emphasized a public, user-friendly system through signage design, placement of shelters adjacent to local businesses, and standard tickets that did not distinguish among different types of riders.


Based on grantee reports and interviews, several observations about JARC service in the study counties can be noted (table 7, table 8). Grantees showed a considerable degree of creativity in applying program components to meet the needs of TANF recipients and low-income individuals. Services tended to focus on client work and support service needs. And, in most cases, service demand increased over time as awareness of the program grew. Also, service delivery mechanisms varied across the projects. Use of information technology varied considerably among the projects. And, JARC service led to broader community impacts.

The program demonstrated its flexibility on many fronts. For example, in Maine, the grantee provided all new JARC service, expanding already-established rural, door-to-door, pick-up service to new stops in urban areas. Transit service was also coordinated with other service providers in the local area. In North Dakota, a telemarketing firm hired 75 telephone operators from the Spirit Lake tribal reservation, the grantee, for its phone catalogue business, and relied on JARC service for transporting workers to the work sites. In Illinois, the grantee experimented with routes, established new routes when new employment opportunities became available, and canceled routes when ridership was low. The grantee, RIDES, provided second- and third-shift service as well as weekend service with program funds, and demand was so high that funding was depleted midway through the year. Rather than stop service, RIDES was able to allocate funding from other, non-JARC sources to continue the service throughout fiscal year 1999. And, on discovering that JARC funding could serve low-income persons as well as TANF recipients, the California grantee modified its draft application to include a broader range of riders, leading to a system that served TANF recipients and low-income residents, as well as the general public.

JARC service in the 8 study areas tended to be client-oriented, providing a personalized service often adapted to individual riders. Several examples are revealing of this orientation. In Maine, the grantee designed its transit service to ensure that individuals transitioning from welfare to work could access necessary support services using the transit system. As a result, the transit route included stops at childcare facilities, training sites, job search locations, other support services and employment sites. The Iowa partner emphasized that their project, by offering transit to distant urban areas, had allowed Job Corps students to receive better on-the-job training opportunities in higher-paying positions, to achieve a higher level of post-training employment, and to obtain higher-paying jobs than before the JARC project had been funded. And, in North Dakota, the grantee had originally planned to route its service using bus shelters as stops, but after finding that the severe cold in the winter prevented people from using these shelters, they began door-to-door pick-ups, thereby boosting ridership.

However, while grantees were flexible in adapting service to changing rider needs, several of them expressed frustration at the difficulty of reaching remote rural locations and making jobs accessible to low-income residents and TANF recipients. In particular, grantees and partners in California, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee talked about how distance and geographic barriers created a dilemma for transit -- long commutes resulted, leaving many riders frustrated at the length of time required to reach a job. Service reliability was also a concern for some riders, since a slight delay in one route segment could result in being late for work.

Overall, while JARC ridership on some systems was initially low, demand often increased once the service was publicized and riders began to rely on it. This was the case in California, Illinois, Maine, and North Dakota.

Delivery practices varied among grantees. For example, several grantees -- in Illinois, Maine, North Dakota, and Tennessee -- provided JARC transit service directly. In contrast, in Iowa and Pennsylvania, a regional planning organization applied for the program grant, with its subsidiary transit agency delivering transit service. And, in California, a county human service agency contracted with a transit company to provide service.

Some differences were also observed in the use of information technology to report on program services. Two of the grantees, Illinois and Maine, used a computerized billing system. And, while FTA established an electronic system (TEAM) for grantees to use in reporting results, most sites in our study did not use it. While training for electronic reporting was available, several grantees said that access to training was problematic, as was the availability of trained personnel. Several grantees also specifically indicated that they had used geographic information systems (GIS) to develop routes to match the locations of TANF and low-income populations with job destinations. And, one grantee indicated that partners had used colored markers to delineate routes.

Community Impacts-- Interviews with grantees and partners suggested that community impacts varied from place to place. For example, in North Dakota, the grantee indicated that as a result of placing Native Americans in a telemarketing firm and in health care organizations in nearby Devil's Lake, individuals gained valuable job skills and are now working in local retail and service establishments, an important step for local employers who previously had a minimal history of hiring Native Americans. And, in California, one partner indicated that the project had greatly expanded transportation for the entire community, and that the collaborating organizations could now see the benefits of leveraging resources to provide a common transit service. Also, once the program had demonstrated its utility as a transit operation there, a rancheria that operated a casino on the edge of the local community provided funding for a second transit loop to serve other local customers -- including gamblers, tourists, casino workers, and recreational fishermen.[5]  Another community impact, found in some locations, was an attitude change about rural transit and its role in the community. Maine partners commented that participation in the program had enhanced community understanding of the importance of public transit for local quality of life. Partners in Iowa, Illinois, and Pennsylvania described the potential benefits of expanding JARC service to serve the general public.

Although estimates on the local economic impact of JARC are not generally available, some grantees provided information on the number of individuals transported under the program. For example, in North Dakota, 75 individuals used the service to commute to new jobs at a local telemarketing firm; 20 others used it to get to work at healthcare facilities in the area. While the numbers transported there were small -- 95 individuals commuted to jobs using JARC in the two-county area with an overall employment base of over 3,900 -- none of these passengers had alternative means of transportation, so employment was impacted positively in this highly rural area. Meanwhile, in Illinois, approximately 450 individuals used JARC service for transportation to employment, childcare, job search, and training opportunities during fiscal year 1999. Of these, nearly 60 percent were still employed at the end of the study period, and almost two-thirds of all individuals conducting job searches using JARC had secured employment. The Illinois grantee estimated that every additional dollar spent on transportation brought back $4 to the community -- with the JARC program expanding payrolls in the local transit district by an additional $2 million. And, in the Maine study area, 15,400 trips were recorded for employment, training, and other support services during the study period -- translating into an average of 21 daily round-trip rides. However, in spite of these success stories, a recently unpublished survey conducted by the State of Tennessee underscores the continuing unmet need for transit services in the Tennessee study counties. According to the survey, 735 individuals there lacked transportation to second- and third-shift and weekend jobs, despite implementation of JARC.

Outreach and Marketing

Program success -- measured by number of riders -- often relied on outreach to the public and marketing to new customers. Each of the 8 case studies marketed the program differently, using outreach techniques adapted to their local communities and their customers (table 9). These outreach and marketing activities can be characterized as: pre-program activities, one-on-one outreach, meetings, ad campaigns, and Web activities.

Pre-program activities took place in several of the case studies. For example, in California, the grantee mapped out the route and tested it before submitting the final application -- lending visibility to the route before it was implemented. In Tennessee, human service agency personnel reached out to individual TANF recipients by providing "soft-skills" courses to facilitate their entry into the work force, readying them to use JARC services. And, the North Dakota grantee conducted a transportation needs study to document the lack of transportation, thereby providing the public advance notice about the potential for future transit service.

One-on-one contacts, particularly between employers and workforce training organizations on the availability of JARC transportation, took place in all 8 study areas. However, several grantees also extensively used word-of-mouth communication to generate ridership. The North Dakota grantee communicated not only with local tribal organizations to promote the program, but carried out an extensive outreach effort to employers in nearby North Dakota communities so that Native Americans could be provided information and access to better-paying jobs. The Iowa grantee used one-on-one communication with employers located in urban areas not served by transit service to generate better on-the-job training opportunities for Job Corps students. And, a Maine partner, the local human service agency, communicated with each client about the transportation service and its availability to employment locations.

Meetings provided another outreach tool used by all 8 grantees. Meetings took on a dual purpose: they generated greater partner commitment by involving them continually as the program evolved, and they marketed the program by reaching out to the general public and to employers. In Tennessee, monthly meetings were used to recruit potential employers for involvement in the program. In California, monthly meetings brought together the transit partners to discuss program progress. And, in Illinois, the grantee held bimonthly meetings in two separate locations in a nine-county region and invited all stakeholders to participate.

Advertising campaigns varied, again adapted to the grantee organization, its partners, and the local community. Tennessee inaugurated its program with a Job Awareness Day, accompanied by a major advertising campaign. The grantee developed a JARC information brochure for distribution to county offices and regional transportation offices. Illinois published a bimonthly newsletter giving the latest ridership statistics, along with information on partners, employers, destinations, and contacts. And, the Maine grantee branded its program (calling it WAVE -- Wheels to Access Vocation and Education), and also used cable television ads to publicize the program. The Internet was also used as a marketing tool, particularly in Maine, which developed a separate Web site for its service. Illinois and Pennsylvania used their existing Web sites to publicize the program.


Each grantee and partner expressed concerns about the long-term sustainability of JARC if FTA funding were to be discontinued. To deal with this uncertainty, alternative funding sources were frequently sought by grantees. Employers were sometimes seen as potential contributors, given their vested interest in having a ready source of labor. This was the case in Illinois, Iowa, and Maine, where employers were involved early in the process. Generally, however, employer funding was not emphasized by the program, which focused instead on matching Federal dollars with State and local funds from human service and workforce training programs.

A second source of funding was State money. This was the case in Tennessee, where the intent was to seek State funding to continue the program there. Foundations and local banks were also potential contributors. The Maine grantee indicated a desire to work with its regional planning commission to seek alternative funding sources. And, general public ridership fees were identified as another potential funding source since routes could be marketed to local residents not already taking part in JARC-provided services. In California and Maine, grantee communities located adjacent to tourist facilities also sought to serve local tourists, thereby bringing in additional revenue.

Overall, however, many grantees and their partners emphasized the difficulties of sustaining rural transit in general, not just the JARC program. Geographic barriers, long distances, and light population densities are all associated with higher per capita costs of providing rural transit services. Very rural locations, in particular, often face the greatest difficulties in achieving transit sustainability. One partner in Tennessee put it simply: "Those who can't get a driver's license won't get a job." Several partners in Pennsylvania and Tennessee also indicated that TANF funding could be used for car purchases, including paying for costs associated with insurance and repairs -- a policy that could undercut the use of transit in some rural locations. Public transit also has a negative image in some rural areas that can affect transit sustainability by reducing ridership. A human service agency representative said, "public transportation is a stigma" for low-income people in some rural areas. As a result, many low-income rural residents will often "patch together" old vehicles to retain their sense of independence, even though transit could provide a lower-cost alternative.

Opportunities and Challenges

The JARC program presented rural areas with a broad range of opportunities and challenges.

Opportunities-- Based on interviews with grantees, their partners, State transportation officials, and FTA, a number of opportunities for the JARC program can be identified (table 10). [6] Opportunities generally involve collaborating with partnering organizations; and enhancing community understanding of the importance of transportation in rural America.

Many rural areas have a relatively small cadre of organizations providing public service functions. Virtually all of the grantees and their partners indicated that they had already worked together on previous projects, and knew who needed to "come to the table" to plan and implement the JARC program. This makes it relatively easy to collaborate for the benefit of the community.

Two variations on this theme can be identified. First, in some cases, organizations were already familiar not only with the potential partners, but personally knew their staff. For example, in California, a partner indicated that they had cooperated with several of the JARC organizations in a volunteer activity to build a community playground. In Illinois, the grantee organization has been in existence for 25 years and knows each of its partner organizations through previous interactions. Second, other cases illustrated instances where new and more inclusive relationships were forged as a result of JARC. In these cases, the program served as a catalyst for organizations to come together and address transportation -- a mutually recognized problem that organizations may have had insufficient resources to previously address. In Tennessee, JARC gave the State an opportunity to educate human service agencies about the true cost of providing transportation, and provided the State with an impetus for coordinating efforts with transit agencies. The Spirit Lake Tribe (North Dakota) included the entire reservation community and its institutions in the planning process, and also reached out to State and local organizations.

Other examples where JARC created new opportunities for collaboration are in the Illinois, Iowa, and Maine study areas, where new training opportunities were made available to low-income residents as JARC funds were used to transport them to training locations outside the local transit service areas. Partners in these locations indicated that JARC had brought about a higher job placement rate. In Tennessee, the grantee indicated that it had started partnering with workforce centers to make JARC-funded transportation options available for trainees traveling to distant employment/training sites.

Challenges-- Implementation of JARC service in the study areas faced many challenges. Some were one-time issues resulting from the difficulties associated with a new program start-up, and recent restructuring of various Federal, State, and local programs (table 10). [7] Others were more long-term in nature, reflecting limited staff resources of rural organizations, program "red tape" and staff turnover, and resistance on the part of employers or clients to a new way of doing things.

Although FTA publicized the program widely before it was officially advertised, the time available to respond to the November 6, 1998 formal notice in the Federal Register and the application deadline of December 31, 1998 was very short. Many case study participants indicated that this restricted their ability to gather needed data in support of their applications, and that it limited the number of partners they could involve in the planning process. Those grantees able to use the expertise of a regional planning commission, a transit operator accustomed to FTA requirements, or a transportation planning consultant had fewer difficulties completing the application.

Funding inconsistencies at the national, State, and local levels also impeded program implementation in the study areas. As indicated previously, fiscal year 1999 was the only year grants were awarded solely by FTA, with subsequent years including a mixture of congressional grant identification and FTA allocation. Since participants must re-apply each year for JARC funding, several participants expressed concern that this change in funding procedures might reduce the amount of money competitively available and potentially decrease their ability to receive JARC funding. Others mentioned that it was difficult to plan a service without knowing whether funding would be available in the following year. And, one participating agency cited that funding uncertainties at the State level disrupted program planning and implementation. In Illinois, successful implementation of "24/7" service resulted in depletion of funds midway through the project (although the grantee was able to obtain alternative local funding).

Simultaneous changes in Federal, State, regional, and local programs, including TANF, WtW, and WIA, led to JARC program slowdowns in several study areas. One grantee articulated the overall frustration created by these simultaneous program reorganizations: the regulations all changed so quickly that there was no time during the fiscal year 1999 grant period when staff could catch up with the latest requirements.

Several observations about these simultaneous, multiple program changes can be made. First, because welfare reform took time to bring about changes in TANF, TANF involvement in JARC varied among study areas. While some human service agencies had time to institute a variety of personal transportation options for individuals lacking cars (including providing money for car purchase, lease, or insurance payments), this was not always the case. For example, in Illinois and Maine, grantees indicated that they focused primarily on transporting low-income residents (not TANF recipients) to jobs. Second, while workforce training organizations were partners in the majority of study areas, their visibility and involvement in the program may have been reduced because of WIA reorganization and the focus on moving TANF recipients directly into jobs.

Confusing regulations and reporting requirements also cut across several organizational levels at the local, regional, State, and national levels, and created program implementation delays in some locations. Nontraditional transit organizations sometimes expressed confusion about standard FTA application and reporting requirements. Non-transit grantees often indicated unfamiliarity with FTA terms and conditions, which caused some delay in completing their applications. Several grantees also expressed frustration about the complexity and length of the original FTA JARC reporting requirements, requirements that FTA subsequently simplified. The difficulty of using the FTA electronic reporting system used to track grants was frequently mentioned. FTA offered training on how to use its electronic reporting system, but taking part required short-staffed agencies to set aside other responsibilities during the training period. Some grantees indicated that the training locations were not easily reached, particularly during inclement weather in mountainous areas. Furthermore, each of the funding partners had different reporting requirements, adding to the confusion about what information needed to be reported, to whom, how frequently, and in what format. For example, TANF, WtW, and WIA programs do not separate out transportation as an expense, but rather, treat it as a client service.

Lack of trained staff and/or staff turnover also contributed to reporting difficulties. For example, in one location, the fiscal officer changed jobs, leaving the agency with no reporting expertise until a replacement could be trained. And, in non-transit agencies, the requirements of reporting program results added an additional layer of duties for organizations already having limited staff resources.

In some locations, employers appeared reluctant to take part in the program. Grantees and their partners expressed several reasons for this lack of involvement. Since employers or their representative organizations were often not included in the initial planning process in several locations, they may have felt left out of the program. Several grantees and partners also indicated that employers were unwilling to pay for transportation services to bring employees to work. In one case, an employer agreed to contribute to program service, but then deducted the cost of transportation from employee wages. Another grantee indicated that employers did not have the time to do the required paperwork, and that it was easier to get a new, non-JARC, employee. However, in locations characterized by low unemployment rates, employers were more likely to cooperate with the project by hiring workers located in surrounding high unemployment areas.

Privacy concerns in a few instances also may have prevented dissemination of addresses of TANF recipients to program grantees, limiting the use of the program. Some grantees dealt with this through the use of GIS and through other such techniques to identify the location of low-income residents, employment locations, training sites, and daycare facilities.

In some locations, local resistance to door-to-door transportation of TANF recipients and low-income individuals was noted, with some charging that such a service represented a "glorified taxi service." However, in California, the initial reluctance was overcome once the route was established and ridership expanded to include the general public. In Maine, although door-to-door service occurred in sparsely populated rural areas, collection points were designated in small urban areas, thereby combining individual service, where needed, with bus stops in more populated sites.

Personnel changes slowed implementation in some locations. These changes took place at the national, regional, and local levels. One grantee felt that regional FTA staff turnover lengthened the response time for technical assistance in the program, while in several locations, grantees cited frequent staff turnover in their own and partners' offices, resulting in a loss of "institutional memory." Others cited situations where program planning was performed by one organization and operations were delegated to another subsidiary organization. This required a second, time-consuming, round of partnership building at the operations level.

Client issues created confusion and conflict in some locations, with clients occasionally displaying behaviors that made transit service difficult to provide. Transient passenger bases, "no-shows," cancellations, and rude behavior all contributed to disruptions in transit service. Some older workers who experienced job dislocations were resistant to new employment, sometimes preferring not to seek jobs outside their localities. Also, public transit was often seen as a stigma, used only by those too poor to afford a car. Thus, while transit routes were designed and operated to serve low-income rural areas, they sometimes suffered from client-oriented perceptions that transit served welfare recipients and consequently generated little ridership.

Overall, all grantees and their partners stressed that the challenges facing rural JARC implementation reflected the difficulties of providing rural transit. Long distances, low population densities, client-based issues, and high per capita costs make transit a costly transportation option in many rural areas. A common concern among grantees was their inability to provide service to those who needed it most.

Post-Implementation Perspectives - Lessons Learned from JARC

After discussing implementation of their projects, each grantee and some partners had the opportunity to provide overall feedback on the JARC program -- what worked, what didn't, what should be changed, what should be reinforced, how the community was affected, what broader impact flowed from JARC? These issues will now be reviewed. The intent here is to provide the perspective of the grantees and partners, thinking through the program from the point of view, "if I had to do it over, what would I do differently?"

The broad consensus of grantees and their partners was that, overall, the program worked well. JARC demonstrated that the partners and the community could work well together. The partners shared the general sense that the program had a positive outcome for their clients.

What worked well? The partners made several points. First, JARC worked well for their clients. In Iowa, Job Corps students were able to access better on-the-job training, leading to higher employment rates and higher-paying jobs. In Illinois, Vocational Rehabilitation training and graduation rates were higher. Second, several grantees cited reduced welfare rolls. Third, in all 8 locations, JARC created more communication among partners about what more could be done to successfully place people into jobs. Fourth, in Maine and Illinois, locations that had branded and heavily publicized the service, JARC had visibly and publicly provided transportation to jobs, demonstrating a real need for transit, while in California and Maine, it had generated support from local communities and local businesses to continue program services. Fifth, JARC provided positive public relations for participating agencies, including the local Chamber of Commerce and a regional tourism association in Maine, and RIDES in Illinois, giving these organizations the opportunity to promote their roles in adding jobs, increasing regional payrolls, and bringing dollars into their local communities.

How might the program's performance be improved? First, partners indicated that it would be preferable to include case managers in the planning process, or those actually involved in service delivery, to provide a "reality test" of how proposed service would -- or could -- function, as opposed to "management types" removed from the day-to-day processes. Second, virtually all partners indicated that employer representation in the planning and implementation process should be broadened. While employers were represented in some locations, in other areas partners felt that employer involvement would have made transit planning efforts more realistic by identifying actual job/employment locations. Employer involvement at the onset also would have committed employers to the process, enlisting their support through training, and employing program clients and providing transit subsidies where feasible. Third, partners suggested a nominal fee be charged for ridership at all times to establish a precedent that the service represents a cost both to the individual and to the program.

Fourth, several partners indicated that JARC had demonstrated that there are many barriers to moving family members suffering from multi-generational poverty into jobs, and that organizations not directly involved with these families did not fully understand how best to address those barriers. To overcome this hurdle, outreach to and inclusion of organizations working directly with people living in poverty should be emphasized in future projects. These organizations may not be limited to just county-based human service agencies, but may also include non-profit organizations, faith-based organizations, youth-training organizations and other community-based organizations working directly with communities experiencing poverty. Involvement of community poverty organizations may help to address multiple employment barriers facing the hard-to-place TANF client. Also, future projects should be designed to incorporate the desire of low-income individuals to "fit in" with everyone else, and not require use of a special pass that designates them as a "welfare rider." Where transit itself is seen as a poor person's mode of transportation -- the case in some rural counties -- creative routing and scheduling may allow for transit alternatives that do not label individuals as poor.

Fifth, partners urged that uniform reporting requirements be set up across all agencies. Frequently, confusion is created by differences among the various Federal agencies (including DOL, DOT, and HHS), and is complicated by their counterparts at the State, regional, and local levels. Each governmental unit frequently requires a different set of data, uses different reporting forms, and has different reporting cycles.

Sixth, electronic reporting systems should also be made more adaptable to rural users and rural capabilities. Some participants indicated that difficulties arose with training staff, having scarce staffing resources, and having problems with the electronic reporting system itself. The majority of project participants filed paper reports, even though electronic reporting mechanisms were available. While such systems appear to be becoming the norm in Government, several problems associated with their use still exist. Staff training may be an issue, given low staffing levels in many rural organizations. Time taken off for training is time taken away from other responsibilities, and staff turnover means further training. Also, some rural agencies may not be "wired" for easy electronic access.

Seventh, Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between counties, departments at the State, regional, and local levels, and between States could help build better job connections between rural areas and employment centers for the JARC program. Although the purpose of the program is to connect people with jobs and other support services, government jurisdictions can sometimes interfere with that connection. County boundaries can limit county or region-based transit systems and State boundaries can also limit the ability of a transit system to pick up and drop off passengers. In Illinois, RIDES recommended that States develop MOUs to allow out-of-State transit systems to be able to pick up and drop off clients for employment purposes where no local transit system exists or where it is unable to offer the service. An MOU in this case would provide the legal framework to allow RIDES, located in southeastern Illinois, to pick up Kentucky residents along its routes and bring them to jobs in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky.

Eighth, sustainability remains a major concern for all rural transit systems, not only JARC-funded systems. Rural transit is costly because of the longer distances and lower population densities in rural areas, rendering the per-ride cost higher than for urban fixed-route transit. Yet the cost of sustaining rural transit should be weighed against what it costs to maintain people on government-support programs, including TANF, Food Stamps, Medicaid, and other income-eligible support programs. An illustration of the economic benefits of transit can be found in a recent study that determined that rural transit systems produced benefit/cost ratios in excess of three to one, indicating that those systems transporting people to work and to critical medical services helped rural residents maintain lifestyles independent of government programs (Burkhardt, 1998).

Grantees and their partners made a number of broader observations about partnerships, coordination, and the building of a transit service that can benefit the local community. Many partners indicated that the JARC partnering approach is spreading to other, non-transportation programs within their communities, and that it is being increasingly used to leverage community resources.

One observation frequently made is that partnerships have a cost -- they take time to develop and maintain. Commonly, personal relationships among individuals within the partnering organizations are important to starting partnerships as well as for sharing missions and client bases. While many of the 8 projects relied on existing associations, several partners (in Illinois, California, and Tennessee) specifically mentioned the substantial time commitment required for success. Time committed to JARC was time not spent on other organizational priorities. None of the partners said the time commitment for the program was excessive, but they did indicate that both development and maintenance of the partnership required conscious time allocation to the project to result in a service that transported their clients to work, training, and other support services.

Partnerships are also fragile, both in the trust necessary to operate a successful project and in the funding required to sustain a working transit system. Partners indicated that knowledge of local organizations helped to build the partnerships necessary to implement JARC quickly, but where little familiarity existed, part of the program development process involved establishing partner trust. While partners generally indicated that the organizations affected by the program were "at the table" during planning and implementation, some felt that partnership opportunities may have been limited by organizations not involved in the process. Most frequently mentioned in this regard were employers, representatives of low-income residents, local chambers of commerce, and WIBs. When a JARC project included or was adjacent to Tribal Nation lands or a rancheria, partners sometimes felt that tribal leaders should be involved to ensure that the transit service served a broad geographic area. Yet all grantees and their partners indicated that working together helped to leverage resources and allowed them to offer a deeper, richer, and broader array of services to their clients, thereby moving more people out of welfare and into better-paying, permanent jobs.

A second observation made was that when the partnership process begins, it is important to increase communication among a wide range of different groups and organizations within the community, particularly those organizations not usually included in human service/transportation planning efforts. For example, in Pennsylvania, a partner indicated that representatives of poverty agencies should be included to ensure that the transit planning process would include the concerns of the system riders, not just the interests of planners, the transit agency, and workforce representatives. Several of the grantees indicated that employers should be included in the planning process as well, even though TEA-21 does not require their involvement, since this would help to ensure a more efficient transit route, and result in a greater degree of employer commitment to the program. In California, partners also indicated that broader communication through the program resulted in a new understanding about the benefits that transit can offer a community, helping to bolster businesses, tourism potential, and human service capabilities, thereby increasing mobility, and engendering a greater sense of community.

Coordination of human service agencies with transit was also thought to be important in making JARC a success. Partners in all study areas indicated that coordination would continue alongside and independently of welfare reform. All agencies in the 8 locations had coordinated transportation before JARC and TANF for various human service programs, including welfare, WtW, Job Corps, workforce training, vocational rehabilitation, Americans with Disabilities, and Administration on Aging. JARC brought the partners together around another intersecting mission area -- transporting TANF and other low-income residents to work, training, job search locations, and other support services -- thus allowing agencies to leverage multiple funding sources to serve a single client.

Based on the JARC experience, partners emphasized that transit agencies should be included in the future when workforce development agencies, human service agencies, economic development services, chamber of commerce boards, and other local organizations become involved in local economic development activities. Many of these public and private organizations depend on a mobile workforce so that jobs and services can be adequately accessed. Lacking access leads to diminished services and reduced profits. Partners emphasized that transit often serves as a catalyst linking employment, training, medical, and other support services. Rural areas in particular can benefit from having transit "at the table" since distance and lack of population density make it difficult to schedule cost-effective routes. Moreover, inclusion of all partner organizations with transportation needs can help build a long-term employer-employee relationship and lead to increased transit ridership. And, their inclusion can help ensure that lack of transportation need not be a barrier for rural residents.


Congress created the JARC program in 1998 to address the spatial mismatch in which suburban jobs are often filled by residents of central cities and rural areas, many of whom are welfare recipients or low-income and lack transportation to these jobs. JARC supplements existing transit by funding new transit services, complementing the individualized transportation services provided by human service agencies implementing welfare reform.

Organizations in the 8 rural study locations in this report developed complex partnerships to deliver the JARC program in rural areas. Beginning with the planning process and continuing beyond implementation, regional, local, and non-governmental organizations coordinated resources to provide new transit services to welfare recipients and low-income residents. Multiple organizational levels -- at the State, regional, local, and non-governmental levels -- were involved in coordinating program activities, with some organizations providing funding, others contributing planning expertise or outreach support, and still others donating in-kind services or facilities to ensure program delivery. While partnerships were critical to the success of JARC, they also can be fragile, requiring commitments of time, mutual trust, and open lines of communication. Participants in the 8 projects also stressed that successful job outcomes depended on the involvement and commitment of all relevant partners, including employers and regional development organizations.

New services were provided, including transportation to second- and third-shift jobs, weekend employment, training, childcare, and job readiness activities. Each project tailored the JARC program to the needs of its community, with some focusing on training alone, while others combined training and job trips. Still others included public ridership on their routes, integrating program riders into a service available to the general public.

The program was designed to leverage funding from other sources. While the most common funding sources were TANF and WtW, other projects also used State and local money to provide the match for JARC. In some cases, the funding partnerships were able to leverage limited resources to fill transportation gaps in existing service, or to develop entirely new service for TANF recipients and low-income residents.

All 8 projects expressed concerns about the sustainability of the program if FTA funding were to be discontinued in the future. While some participants indicated that they were searching for other funding alternatives, others said that resources were already "stretched to the limit," so that few new funds would be available to continue JARC service. Reporting systems were also problematic, since each participating agency reported different information to separate funding sources. Each agency was thus required to file multiple reports and gather different information on the same set of clients using separate reporting cycles. An electronic reporting system is available for JARC participants, but rural locations often lacked the necessary electronic capabilities, and had time constraints, limited access to training, and inadequate personnel to utilize the system.

JARC implementation was affected by the simultaneous implementation of several newly revised Federal programs. WtW, which had been funded for two years when JARC was established, was used as a source of matching funds for JARC in some projects. WIA was passed in 1998, merging 17 training programs in 4 Federal departments into "one-stop" centers -- a process that unfolded as the 8 JARC projects began. TANF, also a source of matching funds, was enacted in 1996, creating comprehensive changes throughout the Federal, State, regional, and local human service system. One partner described the difficulty of "keeping up with constantly changing regulations" as JARC was implemented.

Like most rural transit systems, JARC faces challenges and opportunities unique to providing passenger service in rural areas. Long distances and low population densities often create barriers to serving welfare recipients and other low-income rural residents. Despite these and other obstacles, the 8 rural areas reviewed in this report were able to successfully implement JARC, a new transit program designed to address job access barriers and expand opportunities for employment, training, and other services for rural residents without cars.


Burkhardt, Jon E., James L. Hedrick, Adam T. McGavock, Assessment of the Economic Impacts of Rural Public Transportation, Transit Cooperative Research Program, Report 34, Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1998.

Community Transportation Association of America, Linking People to the Workplace, Washington, D.C., revised, January 2001a.

Community Transportation Association of America, Institute for Economic and Social Measurement, Status of Rural Public Transportation --2000, Federal Transit Assistance Program, Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, April 2001b.

Dewees, Sarah, "The Drive to Work: Transportation Issues and Welfare Reform in Rural Areas," Information Brief, A Special Series on Welfare Reform in the South, Southern Rural Development Center, No. 5, November 1998.

Federal Register, November 6, 1998, Vol. 63, No. 215, Part V, Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, Job Access and Reverse Commute Competitive Grants; Notice.

Haskins, Ron, Isabel Sawhill, and Kent Weaver, Welfare Reform: An Overview of Effects to Date, WR&B Policy Brief 1, Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C., January 2001.

Kaplan, April, "Rural Challenges: Barriers to Self-Sufficiency," Welfare Information Network, Vol. 2, No. 14, September, 1998.

Nightingale, Demetra Smith, Program Structure and Service Delivery in Eleven Welfare-to-Work Grant Programs, The Urban Institute, Submitted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, January 2001.

TANF Funded Programs for Transportation, web site:

United States Code (USC), TEA-21, Federal Transit Act of 1998, Section 3037, Job Access and Reverse Commute, 49 USC 5309.

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Building Partnerships: Opportunities for Federal Funding, Community Transportation Association of America, Community Transportation Assistance Project, May 2000.

U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, Fiscal Year 1999 Job Access & Reverse Commute Grantee Quarterly Reporting Requirements

U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, Use of TANF, WtW, and Job Access Funds for Transportation

U.S. General Accounting Office, Welfare Reform: Transportation's Role in Moving From Welfare to Work, Report to the Chairman, Committee on the Budget, House of Representatives, GAO-RCED-98 -- 161, May 1998.

U.S. General Accounting Office, Welfare Reform: DOT Is Making Progress in Implementing the Job Access Program. Report to Congressional Committees, GAO-01-133, December 2000.

U.S. General Accounting Office, Welfare Reform: GAO's Recent and Ongoing Work on DOT's Access to Jobs Program, GAO 01-996R, August 17, 2001a.

U.S. General Accounting Office, Workforce Investment Act: Better Guidance Needed to Address Concerns Over New Requirements, Report to Congressional Requesters, GAO-02-72, October, 2001b.

U.S. General Accounting Office, Welfare Reform: Competitive Grant Selection Requirement for DOT's Job Access Program Was Not Followed, Report to Congressional Committees, GAO-02-213, December 2001c.

U.S. General Accounting Office, Workforce Investment Act: Improvements Needed in Performance Measures to Provide a More Accurate Picture of WIA's Effectiveness. Report to Congressional Requesters, GAO-02-275, February 2002a.

U.S. General Accounting Office, Workforce Investment Act: Coordination between TANF Programs and One-Stop Centers Is Increasing, but Challenges Remain, Statement of Sigurd R. Nilsen, Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness, Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S. House of Representatives, GAO-02-500T, March 12, 2002b.

U.S. General Accounting Office, Welfare Reform: DOT Has Made Progress in Implementing the Job Access Program but Has Not Evaluated the Impact. Testimony Before the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, U.S. House of Representatives, Statement of JayEtta Z. Hecker, GAO-02-640T, April 17, 2002c.

Weber, Bruce A., Greg J. Duncan, and Leslie A. Whitener, eds., Rural Dimensions of Welfare Reform: Welfare, Food Assistance and Poverty in Rural America, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 2002.

Rural Transit

The main Federal rural transit program is known as Section 5311, named after a section of the Federal Transit Act, Non-urbanized Area Formula Transit Grants. Section 5311 is a formula grant program that authorizes both capital and operating assistance grants to public transit systems in areas with populations of less than 50,000. The Federal share for capital and administrative expenses is 80 percent and the local share is 20 percent; the Federal share of operating expenses is up to 50 percent. In 1997, 1,215 such transit systems existed -- representing approximately half of all rural counties nationwide (fig. 4 PPT, fig. 4 Word) (Community Transportation Association of America, 2001a). The majority of these systems are publicly administered (fig. 5 PPT, fig. 5 Word).

Human service agencies also often provide transportation as part of their overall client service package. Some human service agencies purchase vehicles and hire drivers, while others contract with rural transit operators to provide transportation. However, caseworker time, vehicle expenses, and contract costs are often not identified separately as transportation, but rather are classified as meeting the overall service needs of a particular client. It is thus difficult to ascertain definitively how much transportation is provided in rural counties by human service agencies. However, HHS identifies 71 separate programs in 14 Federal agencies that provide transportation funding through grants, loans, and technical assistance (HHS, 2000).

Much rural transit is provided by single-purpose funding, such as that provided by HHS for the Elderly and Handicapped, Medicaid, TANF, and Head Start programs. The Department of Education (DOE) has transportation monies available through its Vocational Rehabilitation Grants, while DOL provides funding through its Senior Community Service Employment Program and its Workforce Investment Act Programs. Each of these programs provides funding to individual clients as a support service on an as-needed basis. When a rural transit system operates within its service area, the human service organization can contract with the transit system to provide transportation. If no system exists, local organizations use a variety of options, including taxis, employee-provided transportation using agency or private vehicles, or ambulances in the case of Medicare. Thus, a wide range of rural agencies and organizations have resources for community transit, but they may not have an incentive to make them available if they can meet client needs by using employee cars, agency vehicles, or taxi service, or if there is no specific mandate to coordinate transportation services.

[1] Eligible agencies and authorities include States, local governments, public transit agencies, and tribal organizations (Federal Register, 1998).

[2] For a good discussion of welfare reform and its implications for rural America, see Weber et al. (2002).

[3] No data currently exist on the amount of TANF funding used for transportation. For more information, refer to the following Web site:

[4] During the study period, the Texas grantee was in the process of being reorganized and JARC service was not implemented there. However, important parts of the program were successfully completed, including planning and partnering. Hence, to maintain stylistic consistency, references to Texas are sometimes written as if service had been implemented there.

[5] “Rancheria” is the name for a place established for Indian settlement in California, and is roughly synonymous with the term “reservation,” used in other parts of the country.

[6] For critical reviews of the JARC program, see U.S. General Accounting Office (2000, 2001a, 2001c, 2002c).

[7] Many of these challenges can present opportunities if the program is adapted to meet the varying needs of rural areas. Also, this description is intentionally generic and does not identify a specific challenge with a particular location, since many of these challenges were faced in several of the study locations. Several of the identified challenges may have been addressed in subsequent years.