Connecting Low-Wage Workers With Job Opportunities

Public transportation plays an important role in addressing poverty, unemployment and equal-opportunity goals. Often, entry-level jobs are far from affordable housing. Moreover, low-income workers are often carless, or struggle with high gas prices. These factors make transit particularly important to working class people.

The Hiawatha light rail line opened in 2004 as the first link in the Twin Cities’ envisioned transitway system—a system that provides premium transit services including light rail, commuter rail and bus rapid transit. The transitways are expected to improve mobility and accessibility through reliable and rapid service, yet many question who benefits from them.

Over much of the past year, our research team attempted to uncover whether the Hiawatha light rail line effectively connect low-wage workers with suitable job opportunities. Low-wage workers are defined as workers with average monthly earnings no higher than $1,200.

The study found that following the opening of the Hiawatha line in 2004, the number of low-wage jobs accessible by 30 minutes of transit travel in morning peak hours increased by 14,000 or 50 percent in light-rail station areas and by 4,000 or 25 percent in areas with direct, light-rail-connecting bus routes.