By Adrianne Burke
I use public transportation regularly. In fact, I pretty much rely on public transportation (or walking, now that the weather warm), and I couldn’t imagine it not being an option for me. But I live in DC, where I never have to ask, “How am I ever going to get there?”
If there weren’t public transportation options in the DC area, I and countless other locals would lose access to a significant portion of available job opportunities, and this is exactly what’s happening in the suburbs of Atlanta, where Young Invincibles spent some time recently talking about youth unemployment.
Duluth: Life in the Sprawl
Atlanta has a pretty substantial public transportation system, but the further from the city you live, the more difficult is it is to find regular public transportation. Duluth, home of the Goodwill – North Georgia, a stop in our ongoing national youth jobs tour, is actually more than 25 miles outside of Atlanta; and public transportation in the city is extremely limited, if it even exists at all.
Like many Goodwills, this site offers substantial jobs training programs. Programs vary by center, but Goodwill’s North Georgia center has a program designed specifically to help youth and young adults make it in today’s job market.
When we talked to program participants about their experiences, they were confident in their ability to develop the skills needed to be competitive in the workforce. However, external challenges such as transportation played a major role in their confidence of being able to sustain long-term employment.
A recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution cited research by the Brookings Institute that highlighted correlation between public transportation and employment.
- 88% of the region’s poor lives in suburbs, less than a third of suburban residents have access to transit
- Only 17% the region’s jobs are within a 90-minute commute
When you live in a state where 20% of young people are unemployed, you can assume that public transportation has significant impact on youth unemployment.
For example, one young man at Goodwill’s North Georgia’s youth program was recently offered a new job working in the mail delivery industry. Unfortunately, he had to decline the position because the commute involved him walking on highways and busy streets for more than an hour – and it was deemed too unsafe by the Goodwill. The position also required that he have reliable transportation, and since he can’t afford a car, his job opportunities are limited to his own neighborhood.
We have lots more to report from Atlanta, but one thing became very clear on our trip to Duluth: solutions to the youth unemployment crisis facing Georgia and our nation will require a multi-faceted approach.
Have you ever experienced so much difficulty getting to a job that you had to consider quitting? Sound off in the comment section.