Title

REGIONAL TRANSIT PROGRAM FOR WELFARE TO WORK IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: THREE YEARS LATER

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

2004

Subject Area

ridership - commuting, policy - fares

Keywords

Welfare to work, Welfare recipients, Travel time, Travel patterns, Transportation policy, Transit dependency, Subsidies, Social service, Poverty, Poor people, Low income groups, Low income families, Journey time, Fares, Cost benefit analysis, Chicago (Illinois), Benefit cost analysis

Abstract

The impact of the welfare-to-work (WtW) regional public transportation program on participants in Chicago, Illinois, is reviewed 3 years after an initial study. The regional transportation program provided free transit passes and vanpool services to participants during their first 6 months of employment and training on regional transit options for job developers. WtW participants' travel patterns were noted, social service contractors were interviewed, and Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) clients were examined. In 2000, pass use for WtW participants and regular 30-day pass users was determined to be almost identical because of the strong economy of the late 1990s. Three years later, travel patterns suggested that participants were beginning to find employment farther from home, many in the job-rich O'Hare Airport corridor, and that the costs and benefits of sending low-income workers to distant work locations needed to be assessed. Although providing fare subsidies that allow low-income workers to take advantage of existing infrastructure may be helpful, transportation solutions probably will not be enough to make a meaningful and sustained impact. The regional transportation program illustrates the need for holistic approaches to social policy. The disproportionate level of transit dependency, longer travel times, and significantly higher use of public transit in many of the Chicago communities that have the highest numbers of TANF clients than in the city as a whole point to a serious need for affordable housing near job centers in the Chicago region.