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Cleveland: Dead last in controlling jobs sprawl

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/07/15 @ 2:00pm

More evidence that Northeast Ohio is operating without a flight plan—the region experienced the biggest (%) drop in the country for job access or how many jobs can be reached in an average commute, Brookings Institution found.

Cleveland is not alone. In a survey of 96 U.S. metros, Brookings found the number of jobs within reach fell by 7 percent from 2000 - 2012.

But Northeast Ohio’s -26.5% job access topped all.

<br />Job access due to sprawl has become considerably worse in Northeast Ohio.

Cleveland and every suburb in Cuyahoga, Lorain and Lake counties saw its access to jobs drop. The average distance as the crow flies for Northeast Ohio commuters is 7.8 miles.

Jobs sprawl benefitted only northern Medina County and a small tract in southwest Geauga County.

The worst was felt by the city of Cleveland (-26%), but the wave has hit the suburbs in Cuyahoga County and the western half of Lorain County as well (-22.9%). Job sprawl was particularly bad for areas below poverty level (-35%) and in “majority-minority” areas of the region (-28%). Jobs leaving the metro region totaled 18% in that period.

Solutions to job sprawl need to be collaborative and regional in nature. For instance, Brookings praises an anti-poaching agreement between the 59 municipalities in Cuyahoga County. But, it sees Dayton-Montgomery County’s revenue sharing model as an even more effective approach and natural progression.

A regional plan, like the VibrantNEO 2040, targeting investment in existing communities could go great lengths in addressing the inequities. For instance, a transportation plan that focuses more of the region’s investments in connecting people to work.

Back in 2011, Cleveland.com covered another Brookings report about the spatial mismatch between Greater Cleveland’s transit system and its outmigration of jobs. Although 100% of Northeast Ohioans at the time lived near a transit stop, only 44% could get to a job.


The new (2012) data maps the growing gulf between companies and their work force. Is this cause for concern in corporate boardrooms? Will it the impact on decisions of where to locate? By all appearances, the mindset in many C suites is a job equates to taking on the annual $9,000 cost of car ownership.

Northeast Ohio’s transportation agencies are trying to bring some equity into their planning. The heads of NOACA and AMATs are leading a discussion about which policies can curb job sprawl by favoring projects that better align transportation options and job centers, i.e. companies who locate near transit lines and offer rideshare programs.

Metros looking to do that could use state of Ohio’s support. Ideally, as Ohio promises to better align its transportation funding with performance metrics, it will look at jobs/transit access as one of the areas of improvement.

The companion piece to metrics is better state support for transit-to-work programs. Unfortunately, Ohio’s $1 million answer to transit service needs is going to keep metros like Cleveland (Toledo and Dayton also made the list of the worst jobs sprawl) dwelling in the basement of access and, thus, competitiveness.

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