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Job Access and Reverse Commute Programs in the Chicago and San Francisco Metropolitan Regions (WP-06-08)

Juan Onésimo Sandoval and Eric Petersen

While the 1996 federal welfare reform legislation has generated significant debate regarding declining TANF rolls, more research must be completed to show how TANF recipients use transportation services to access jobs, educational opportunities, child care, and health care. The inadequate transportation is acutely felt by many low-income workers, and transportation is a major barrier preventing the transition from welfare-to-work for many TANF recipients. In 1998, the federal government established the Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) grant program to assist states and localities to identify and develop new or expanded transportation services that link TANF recipients to jobs and other employment related services. The JARC funds were supposed to stimulate the provision of new and innovative forms of transit directed at low income groups, though the regulatory burden meant non-traditional transit providers were generally not eligible to receive the JARC funds.

This paper will present findings from two case studies that examine job accessibility and reverse commute programs in the Chicago and San Francisco Metropolitan region. We first look at the process by which metropolitan planning organizations and regional transit agencies applied for JARC funds. We also examine the nature of new transportation services supported by these grants and examine how regional organization responded to the new challenges to provide flexible transportation services that meet low-income family needs such as paratransit, car ownership, and flexible routing. Finally, in this paper we offer insights to improve Job Access and Reverse Commute programs so that low-income neighborhoods and families can take full advantage of the program.

Juan Onésimo Sandoval, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University

Eric Petersen, Cambridge Systematics

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