Today, Feb. 4, we celebrate Transit Equity Day, and honor Rosa Parks for her vigilance, bravery, and fight for economic equity, justice and opportunity. The fight for transit equity and justice in the Minneapolis- St. Paul region is far from over, and it will require all of us working together to ensure no one in our community is forced to rely on and invest in transit without the benefit of economic opportunity and advancement.
While our economy is growing with new businesses, creating more jobs doesn’t drive economic growth if workers can’t reach those jobs because of lack of transportation. In recent years, the surrounding suburbs have seen higher job growth than the urban core. Yet many of these jobs remain unfilled due to a lack of transit options for job seekers in the urban core.
This problem affects residential neighborhoods, such as those in north Minneapolis, that have a large population of transit dependent residents. Studies have shown that while north Minneapolis residents ride public transportation at higher rates than other metro residents, they also spend a higher percentage of their time utilizing that transportation to access work, school and basic services due to the inequitable investments in our regional transit systems. Further, while Minnesota’s unemployment rate is 3.1 percent, north Minneapolis has an unemployment rate that is seven times higher at 21.1 percent while many employers within a 30-45-minute commute from these neighborhoods have unfilled jobs.
Studies have found that transportation and commute time are the strongest factors when it comes to the odds of escaping poverty. The cost of long-term worker shortages coupled with the growing number of our neighbors who are investing an excessive percentage of their earnings on housing and transportation — due to our failure to invest in build and maintaining equitable transit — is a cost we can no longer afford. The time for transit equity is now.
We are asking state legislators to support legislation that addresses the transit and transportation needs of this region and grows our economy simultaneously. Let’s follow the recommendations of Metro Transit, whose service improvement plan details the investments needed to improve service quality and frequency. We must also continue to invest in innovation as the foundation of our transit system, including new technologies such as bus rapid transit and fixed-route corridors.
We’re eager to partner with legislators and other leaders to unlock our state’s full potential and create a Minnesota that thrives because of our diversity, not in spite of it.
Tawanna Black is the founder and CEO of the Center for Economic Inclusion.