Transportation is one of the fundamental backbones of the American economy. Without proper transportation, either of goods or people, it becomes impossible for any other parts of the economy to work. For individuals, transportation is critical to work, school, and even survival.
According to the US Census Bureau 76.4% of people drove alone to work in 2013, and only 5.2% of workers used public transportation to get to work. This sends one clear message: Most Americans require or prefer a personal vehicle to get to work. This coincides with data showing that commutes are getting longer, a consequence of increasing amounts of traffic on the roads and more people are working jobs that are further away from where they live.
Those who live within bustling cities can benefit from public transportation to get to and from work. Those who live outside of cities in more rural areas almost always rely on personal transportation. Research emphasizes the importance of mobility to employment, especially among those with lower education and in particularly, for single mothers. How can low-income individuals, senior citizens, students and the elderly take find easier ways to get where they need to go? In many cases, public and private assistance offers some relief.
Local Government Reduced Fare Programs
Many local governments invest heavily in their public transit system. This helps keep the costs lower through public ownership or even public-private partnerships. Even with subsidies, many low-income workers still cannot afford the cost, so many local governments provide reduced-fare programs for low-income earners, the disabled and the elderly. Reduced fare programs exist for each of the following metropolitan public transit systems:
Buffalo-Niagara NFTA [PDF]
Los Angeles Metro (additional TAP application)
St. Louis Metro [PDF]
Maryland MTA (additional for disabled)
This is only a partial list of the dozens of the cities, states, and metro systems that offer a reduced fare program. In many cases, the fare program covers students ages 6-18 as well, and in a handful of cases will also cover civil servants such as police officers and other first responders.
You can find a complete list from Job Links [PDF].
Car Ownership and Donation Programs
A number of car-ownership programs exist to help low-income Americans gain access to vehicles. Many nonprofits, not-for-profit organizations and local governments recognize the importance that ready access to transportation has on the economy.
Job Links offers multiple options for people across the board. The website lists different programs available for those looking to find reliable transportation, including a full listing of car loan and car donation programs in every state.
The National Consumer Law Center operates a website dedicated to helping working families find cars as well. The website offers a database for individuals to search for donation or buying programs near their own.
Those in Maryland, Virginia, DC or Michigan can utilize the Vehicles for Change program. This program provides donated vehicles to needy families.
There are no federal programs that exist to aid in a vehicle purchase, rental, or loan. State programs may exist; however, you may need to check with your local or state government, as programs may not be openly advertised.
Additional Options for Individuals and Families
For those living in city areas, reduced fare programs are the most cost-effective transportation method. For others, car loan or donation programs are the best options. Many others, especially those in rural areas, may benefit fromm other options.
National and local carpool programs help individuals get rides to and from work. There are a number of these programs that exist for individuals. This includes:
eRideShare, a website offering ridesharing options for daily needs, cross-country trips, and events
Carpool World, a small website with a large number of carpools listed.
AlterNet Rides, a simple yet powerful tool for finding ride shares.
Ridester, a new service with a useful help for helping individuals find carpools and rideshares.
Rideshare-directory, a website that lists rideshares and carpools from several different sources, including those listed above.
You may also consider driving for Uber as a means to purchasing a car. Uber’s car financing program will automatically deduct your car’s monthly payments from your Uber earnings. This means you can work another job regularly, drive for Uber on the side, and work just enough on the side to pay for your vehicle through working for Uber. Alternatively, you can work more on the side and put the money away for other uses as well.
Can’t Find a Vehicle? Consider Telecommuting
Many jobs go unfilled because employers can’t find any local employees to fill them. If you are struggling to find a way to get to a job, but do have stable internet access, considering working from home. Telecommuting is the fastest growing way to work in the U.S. You can find telecommuting jobs suited for all education levels from the following websites:
Transportation is everything when it comes to finding work, surviving and thriving in the American economy. Assistance is available for many people, especially for those with a low income, students, the disabled and the elderly. Finding those options is not always easy, but with effort and persistence, you can solve your transportation problems.
1. “Who Drives to Work? Commuting by Automobile in the United States: 2013” . Census.gov
2. “New Data Show Longer, More Sedentary Commutes” . PRB.org
3. “The Effect of Car Ownership on Employment” . Economics.ND.edu