Getting from Here to There

Join us June 16 to celebrate the achievements of The Paradox Prize pilots and plot the path to long-term change

The assumption in Northeast Ohio is “everyone drives.” Yet, we know that’s not the case. Too many people in Northeast Ohio face the paradox of “no car, no job; no job, no car.” Our region’s Black residents are disproportionately affected by the challenge as they are overrepresented in areas of economic distress, where rates of car ownership are low. Indeed, those in greatest need of transportation support and good job access are the least likely to have it. A 2015 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland found that jobs are the least accessible for workers with a high school degree or equivalent—the largest share of Northeast Ohio’s workforce—who are also more likely to not own a car and rely on public transportation.

In today’s tight labor market, your next best welder, computer programmer or nurse aid may not have a vehicle to get to you. Are you missing out on quality talent? Is transportation a barrier to your business’ success?  

A recent survey of nearly 5,000 working-age adults in Northeast Ohio indicated the prevalence of the transportation paradox—52% of those surveyed cited transportation as a barrier to finding, getting and keeping a job. Among those surveyed who are not currently employed, one in five said transportation is an extreme barrier for them. Yet, only 4% of the 700 Northeast Ohio employers who were recently surveyed, as part of the Fund’s Where Are the Workers analysis, listed transportation services/commuter benefits as a top change they implemented in the last two years to aid in employee recruitment and retention, and only 3% said it is something they’d consider implementing in the next five years. 

Part of the disconnect may be due to employers being unaware of potential solutions or not knowing where to start. The good news is the transportation paradox is solvable! And in a special event on June 16, the Fund and its partners will showcase eight winning ideas that helped connect more than 1,300 workers to jobs and support more than 400 businesses in accessing talent. 

The Fund’s Paradox Prize initiative, launched in 2019, supported these eight ideas with resources and technical assistance. Over the last few years, the pilots have been helping connect people to jobs across urban, suburban and rural communities in seven counties, enabling workers to access jobs that were previously inaccessible and reducing the time and cost it takes to commute, and enabling businesses to access reliable talent. 

The pilots made a significant impact on real people and businesses and went a long way in improving mobility in Northeast Ohio—but the long-term objective of The Paradox Prize was always about cracking the paradox for good. On June 16, we’ll celebrate the achievements of the eight pilots and spend time understanding how to build on these ideas and what we learned to get to lasting impact for the 4 million-plus residents who call Northeast Ohio home. 

For details on the event and to register, go here: www.crainscleveland.com/paradoxprize.