The Long Journey to Work: A Federal Transportation Policy for Working Families

Evelyn Blumenberg and Margy Waller
Margy Waller Visiting Fellow, Economic Studies and Metropolitan Policy, The Brookings Institution

July 1, 2003

To work, low-income adults need to get to work. However, traveling to jobs is frequently easier said than done, particularly for those without access to fast, reliable transportation. In almost every city, automobiles remain the fastest and most reliable way to get around. Moreover, the continuing decentralization of population and employment has exacerbated the isolation of many low-income families who lack reliable auto access. This brief examines the serious transportation challenges facing low-income workers as they seek employment and offers specific policy responses. Central to the argument is research evidence showing that improved transportation services can enhance economic outcomes, with the most compelling evidence centered on access to automobiles. But the transportation needs of the poor vary by metropolitan area and by neighborhood; therefore, this brief provides a full menu of practical policy options, including automobile access programs, improved fixed-route transit services, and expanded paratransit and other door-to-door transit services.