GLSP Attorney Bill Broker spoke with Savannah Morning News about the way Savannah’s public transportation system’s possible expansion could change the lives of the city’s low-income residents. Originally posted on Savannah Now.
In the city of Pooler, for example, where there is no CAT service, many say it’s an unwanted tax burden and contributor to traffic.
In Garden City, where some areas are served and some are not, there are those who have argued adding routes could aid in redevelopment.
And at the CAT board of director’s meeting this week, I heard it described in a new way, as “a vehicle for the expansion of opportunity for our community.”
“One of the things I’ve been thinking about is sort of the role that transit plays in providing people with opportunities for moving out of poverty,” Board Member Bill Broker said.
Broker invited Step Up Savannah‘s Suzanne Donovan and Director of Planning for CAT Nick Helmholdt to brief the rest of the board on the boundless potential for CAT to improve the economic state of the local community.
View their presentation here.
“There’s been a lot of research recently on using transportation as access to opportunity,” Donovan said. “Both location and transportation matters when it comes to people’s lives. It’s not simply about getting around, but opening up opportunity and connecting people and resources. Rather than talk about route expansion, let’s start talking about opportunity expansion, because that’s what’s at stake here. Mobility changes people’s lives.”
Some of the research Donovan mentioned has concluded that personal vehicles are the most expensive form of traffic for people of any income bracket. A lack of transit stops in the meantime limits a person’s ability to choose where they live and work, especially if they have no or only one vehicle to serve the household.
Locally, she said, this means that new jobs cropping up in south and west Chatham County are essentially unavailable to the families that need them most.
But locating transit routes and stops in employment areas has proven useful to employers, because their employees have reliable transportation that gets them to work on time, Hemholdt said. This has helped employers maintain employees longer.
He pointed to another groundbreaking study out of Harvard University, which revealed that shorter commute times can contribute to a person’s ability to improve their economic situation.
So how can CAT have an influence?
“(We) make sure our riders can access employment destinations within our entire metropolitan area,” Hemholdt said. “(By) helping our regional employers understand the value of public transit, the benefit to their bottom line. Responding to initiatives that are out there that are really trying to connect communities to these efforts.”
He said CAT will be “actively purusing” funding from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, Ladders of Opportunity, and other state, federal and local sources to accomplish these goals.
“I think the thing that’s the most compelling about this is indicators for economic success,” Broker said. “We can’t do anything about two and one parent households, we can’t do anything about test scores, we really can’t do anything about crime. But what we can do, is something about transit. And transit … is the primary indicator of people’s ability to achieve economic success. That opportunity is what we’re charged with here.”