How can you get a job if you can't get to the job? That was the theme of a new report from the Partnership for the Public Good.
More than 50,000 households in the region lack access to a car and around two-thirds are people of color who cannot get to job concentrations outside the City of Buffalo because there is limited or no Metro Bus service there.
For example, Buffalo NAACP President Mark Blue cited problems in Lackawanna's First Ward.
"Baker Victory Services, they have plenty of jobs and you don't have to have a college degree," he said. "If you have a high school degree, you have access to those jobs. But the problem is getting there from Ridge Road in the First Ward of Lackawanna to where Baker Victory Services is, on South Park. It's virtually impossible on weekends or after six."
The report says weaknesses in the local bus system, within Buffalo and especially in first-ring suburbs and rural areas like East Aurora, are keeping people of color and poor people from Buffalo from getting to jobs and improving their economic status. The report also says this hurts businesses because they cannot always get the workers they want.
While expanding the bus system would require more money for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, the report says Albany should start giving more money, as it used to. In turn, the NFTA has to better pay its own workers and develop a focus on improving transit connecting neighborhoods with high poverty and areas with jobs.
Partnership Executive Director Sam Magavern said votes around the country say citizens want better public transit.
"If you look around the country, proposals to raise taxes tend to get voted down. Proposals to raise specifically for public transit tend to get voted up," he said. "So there are a number of places around the country where there's been a ballot initiative or proposal that says, 'We're going to raise taxes, but here's what it's going to be used for. It's going to be for this public transit use.' Those tend to be quite popular. People do tend to believe in public transit."
Magavern cited Denver as an example. There have been other votes, like in Seattle, for continuing expansion of several transit systems. Although there may be routes to job areas, but they do not run often enough or on weekends for people to get to those jobs.
For example, the report counts 35 bus lines serving Buffalo's East Side, but 23 of them are infrequent, with fewer than two busses per hour.
"Almost 58 percent of the jobs in this region are not accessible by public transit," said Magavern. "So, if you don't remember any other number from today, I'd choose this one for you to remember. Almost 58 percent of the jobs in this region, you can not get to by public transit."