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Suburban employers become their own transit agencies
Eli Dile   on Friday, November 17, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

Closing the distance between workers and jobs has long challenged policymakers. Transit agencies are good at moving workers to jobs concentrated in the urban core, but getting workers to jobs dispersed across suburbs is another story. It’s particularly vexing for lower-wage workers, who are most in need of public transportation. Even in areas with good transit coverage, buses and trains don’t always operate when second- and third-shift workers need to get to work.

Suburban employers are increasingly filling these transit gaps with their own self-financed solutions (Star Tribune). Many are paying for private shuttles that provide last-mile connection to municipal transit stations. Private shuttles aren’t cheap, but have become nearly a necessity for employers (notably in warehousing and distribution) that draw workers from nearby urban centers. The need is especially acute in places with a tight labor market and where workers lack automobiles.

Sometimes, transit agencies absorb private transit routes into their official networks. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, an Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee was operating four coach buses to shuttle many of its 2,000 employees from their homes in the city. Eventually, Amazon paid $380,000 to the transit authority to add a stop on a new suburban route, synched to Amazon’s shift schedules.

In Groveport, Ohio, 80 percent of the city’s tax base comes from warehouses at the Rickenbacker Inland Port. To help meet seasonal demand, the area’s logistics industry began operating a shuttle to reach workers in nearby Columbus. Eventually, the city worked with those companies and the regional transit agency to incorporate a new route. The Groveport Rickenbacker Employee Access Transit (GREAT) line moved 24,000 riders in 2016 and is financed by public and private dollars (Governing).

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