Ohio’s Paradox Prize projects offer transit solutions for car-dependent communities

by | Aug 4, 2022

Getting on board with public transit options can help employers recruit and retain workers, while also promoting equity and reducing some greenhouse gas emissions. That approach helped Laketran, Ohio’s Lake County regional transit system, take home top honors in June at a program celebrating Paradox Prize winners.

Launched in 2019 by the Cleveland-based Fund for Our Economic Future, the Paradox Prize aims to solve the problem of “No car, no job; no job, no car.”

Cleveland, like most American cities, is heavily car-dependent due in part to housing and land-use policies that have encouraged suburban sprawl while neglecting urban neighborhoods where jobs and housing were once in closer proximity. Getting to jobs in outer suburbs via public transit — if possible at all — can require multiple transfers, adding hours to commutes.

That creates an additional burden on low-wage workers, as well as leads to higher per-capita emissions than denser cities elsewhere. Black residents, who are both less likely to have access to cars and more likely to be harmed by tailpipe pollution, bear the brunt of this disparity. Segregation patterns that began with historic redlining continue in Cleveland and elsewhere in Ohio.

Other urban areas in Northeast Ohio have similar problems on a smaller scale. And rural areas have generally had few public transit options, especially for people working shifts that begin earlier or last longer than 9 to 5.

“Transportation is everyone’s business,” said Bethia Burke, president of the Fund for Our Economic Future. “Improving job access for the 4 million-plus residents who call Northeast Ohio home is imperative for anyone working toward a more equitable economy.”

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