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The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland finds suburban centers sprawled too far for workers

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/23/15 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Transportation

Add the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland to the chorus of concern over a growing gulf between jobs and who has access to them in Northeast Ohio.

<br />The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland found that more people who use transit have access to jobs that require a college degree. Employers with positions that require a high school diploma have added jobs in locations where transit accessibility is low.

In A Long Ride to Work: Job Access and Public Transportation in Northeast Ohio, The Fed looks at how many jobs are within a 90-minute transit ride. It builds off recent studies by D.C.'s The Brookings Institution and by Cleveland’s The Fund for Our Economic Future, which found that 22% of jobs have moved out of reach of the average 25-minute car trip or 75-minute transit ride in the region.

The Fed takes it a step further, looking at jobs access by industry sector, by educational attainment, and then, from the employers’ perspective, how many workers can businesses hope to access based on their location decision within Northeast Ohio.

It’s a good news/bad news picture on whether jobs are within reach of transit. Northeast Ohio has better than average transit access to jobs that require an advanced degree, including the biggest sectors of health care, finance, arts and entertainment. Mostly, that’s due to their locating in the downtown Cleveland/Ohio City/University Circle corridor and Akron proper.

That’s not the case for jobs in the real estate sector or for service sector positions that pay less than $1,250/month and require a high school diploma only. Smaller suburban communities are at a disadvantage in not having good access to a workforce likely to use transit. Low-skill jobs that have moved to outer suburbs of Westlake and Solon, for example, only have access to 12% of the region’s workforce, The Fed found.

“This is particularly concerning since more than a third of Northeast Ohio’s workforce has just a high school degree or equivalent,” The Fed writes.

If the outer ring suburbs are becoming transit deserts, it is due to the financial infeasibility of placing transit on routes where density is so low. A lack of affordable housing on transit routes to job centers exacerbates the problem, The Fed adds.

On the other end, job sprawl disproportionally affects low to moderate income households, many of whom choose to live in transit-rich areas for reasons of affordability and access to more services.

The Fed includes policy reforms for Northeast Ohio to consider. It calls for improvements to transit and pedestrian facilities at suburban job centers, for example. And for services, such as business-sponsored circulator routes, to accommodate “last mile” travel. It also points out the appalling lack of transit to and from counties of Lorain and Geauga, which provide a large workforce for Cuyahoga but have no direct service.

The Fed also recommends that regional development agencies do more to address the jobs access crisis. In particular, they call for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to play a larger role in placing transit-oriented development goals on their bonds and tapping federal funds set aside for providing developers with flexible, affordable capital to purchase property in close proximity to transit. And for development or preservation of affordable housing.

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Vince Adamus
7 months ago

This is an excellent issue that impacts our regional economic competitiveness and social health. Access to jobs is crucial for personal development and economic well-being. And the ability to easily attract a workforce is crucial for our businesses to compete efficiently. Businesses and individuals should attach a greater weight to this issue when making location decisions.

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