While there is no single solution to tackling economic inequalities, focusing on improving transportation choices, accessibility and increasing affordable housing is a step in the right direction to enhancing equity in our region. Transportation access is a crucial element in providing access to education, jobs, and housing as a means to increase one’s economic and social mobility.
Equitable Opportunity in the CONNECT Beyond Region
Despite the exponential population and employment growth and continuous development that the region has experienced over the past few decades, stark social and economic inequalities still exist throughout our region.
In 2013, the groundbreaking study “Where is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States”, which was conducted by researchers at Harvard University and UC Berkeley, highlighted the very real economic and social inequality that exists in our region. The research study examined intergenerational mobility for various metropolitan areas in the United States and found that Charlotte ranked last among large U.S. cities for intergenerational mobility.
The study’s researchers found that where a child grows up is a significant contributing factor to whether that child will experience economic and social mobility, specifically the ability of a child born into the lowest income bracket to rise into the top income bracket as an adult.
The researchers found that for a child born into poverty in Charlotte, North Carolina, the chance of that child rises to the upper-middle class or upper class (the top 20 percent income bracket) as an adult is only about 4.4 percent.
In response to this research study, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force was formed and between 2015 and 2016, this community member Task Force spent 18 months studying the “complex issues that impact generational poverty and access to opportunity.” In their final report, this Task Force suggested improving access to public transportation and to workforce housing as two key strategies to help “tackle intergenerational poverty and break down barriers to economic opportunities” in the Charlotte community.
Why is Transportation Important?
We know that transportation access is a crucial element in providing access to education, jobs and housing as a means to escape poverty and increase one’s economic and social mobility. Lack of reliable transportation can be a substantial barrier to opportunity and social capital. If there are limited or no public transportation options, especially for low-income individuals and families, this creates significant barriers to being able to get to work, access healthcare, shop for groceries, take your children to school, access other public services and participate in activities and social events throughout our region.
In a 2018 report, the North Carolina Department of Transportation explained that "for lower income households, access to these important [key] destinations by means other than a car help keep transportation costs low, thereby reducing the overall costs of living." The Leading on Opportunity: the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force Report suggested improving access to public transportation as a key strategy for enhancing equity in our region.
A key recommendation for implementing this strategy was to focus on increasing "transportation options for families who don't have their own vehicles."