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Job Accessibility in Northeast Ohio

Lacking transit access, many lower-skilled workers miss out on jobs.

Mum’s the word when it comes to job access in Northeast Ohio. A recent report by the Fund for Our Economic Future, an alliance of Northeast Ohio funders dedicated to advancing growth and opportunity, notes job access is the most important issue no one is talking about. Poor job accessibility can increase jobless rates and make it harder for families to move up the economic ladder. To get people talking, the Fund convened focus groups of representatives from the civic and nonprofit sectors across the region, including representatives from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

From land-use decisions and business locations to per capita spending on transportation, it turns out regional leaders have much to say about job access.

Transit network and jobs in Northeast Ohio

Transit network and jobs in Northeast Ohio

While the Fund plans to continue to raise the level of awareness around this issue, one of our takeaways from the focus group was the need among local business leaders and policymakers for a better understanding of accessibility by job type and how accessibility varies across the Northeast Ohio region. This is the subject of a new study from the Cleveland Fed’s Community Development staff titled “A Long Ride to Work: Job Access and Public Transportation in Northeast Ohio.” It finds that the largest share of Northeast Ohio’s workforce—workers with only high school diplomas—experiences the lowest levels of job access. When job access is measured by a 90-minute-or-shorter transit ride, they are able to reach, on average, just 28 percent of jobs in the region, compared to workers with at least a bachelor’s degree, who can access around 35 percent of jobs in the same transit commute time.

Moreover, access varies greatly by county. In most outlying counties, less than 10 percent of regional jobs can be accessed in 90 minutes or fewer.

Looking at the other side of the coin—what percent of the labor force is accessible to employers—the Cleveland Fed finds that half of Northeast Ohio’s top 10 employment centers have access to only 15 percent or less of the regional workforce. Employment centers with the highest concentration of low-skill jobs tend to experience the lowest labor-force accessibility rates.

What can Northeast Ohio business and civic leaders do to increase job access?

One approach is to build on current strengths. Seven of the 8 counties included in the Cleveland Fed study provide relatively good public transportation service to county residents. But because each transit agency is county-based, limited services exist across jurisdictional lines.

Such an approach would also entail focused investment in the region’s top job centers in terms of business location and transit connections. Viable opportunities for transit-oriented development such as along the Downtown–University Circle–Ohio City corridor should be leveraged in concert with strategies to preserve affordable housing as these areas potentially gentrify. However, more needs to be done to better connect large suburban employment centers, where most of the region’s low-skill jobs exist.

Effective policy solutions will require engagement among public and private actors that influence economic development, transportation, housing, and workforce-development decisions. Let’s keep the conversation going around job access: The region’s economic competitiveness depends on it.

Read more

Learn more about the Cleveland Fed’s findings in “A Long Ride to Work: Job Access and Public Transportation in Northeast Ohio.”

Also, check out work from the Fund for Our Economic Future in The Geography of Jobs: The Increasing Distance between Jobs and Workers in Northeast Ohio and Why It Matters for Future Growth.

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