Making Transportation Options Real for Neighborhood House
By Joan Pasiuk, Program Director
In administering the BWTC pilot we have been attuned to the challenges of shifting from car trips to bicycling, walking, and transit transportation. This can be especially difficult for individuals and families living on low incomes. Out of that need and opportunity, TLC created the Transportation Options program, which we piloted in May. We were pleased to have received funding from the Otto Bremer Foundation for this work and honored to have piloted the program with Neighborhood House (NH) in Saint Paul. Neighborhood House uses a comprehensive approach to break the cycle of poverty and to help people, families, and organizations develop the skills, knowledge, and confidence to thrive in diverse communities.
The impetus of the Transportation Options program was a conversation with Joan Schlecht, NH Basic Needs Program Director. Her staff wanted to better address the transportation challenges of the people they serve at family centers in Saint Paul's East Side, West Side, and Highland neighborhoods. TLC staff delivered a two-day training session for NH staff, to empower them with transportation information and resources they can use in their daily work with participants in NH programs.
Bri Whitcraft of TLC and Angie Coe of Cycles for Change share information with Neighborhood House staff during the Transporation Options workshop.
Neighborhood House staff get up close and personal with the University Ave. and Dale St. Nice Ride station.
The Transportation Options pilot workshop was highly experiential and for some it was the first exposure to Nice Ride bike sharing, HOURCAR car sharing, Cycles for Change Community Bike Shop, and even the first ride on a Metro Transit bus. After a practice bus trip on day one, the group was challenged to arrive for our second day of training by bus, bike, or foot. "The commute challenge was a definite highlight of the training," said Schlecht. Many staff agreed that arriving by bus was an accomplishment and travelling as a team was supportive and fun. "It really helped me develop a sense of confidence by taking the bus and planning my trip," reported one staffer. Building both confidence and understanding through this personal experience with transit and active transportation was a key step in preparing NH staff to discuss transportation options with the people they serve.
NH staff learn how to put a bicycle on the Metro Transit racks.
A practice bus ride in the NH Wellstone Center neighborhood.
The workshop also expanded participants' knowledge about the comparative costs of transportation options. Owning and maintaining a motor vehicle is a large cost for middle-income families, but is even more burdensome for families struggling financially. With this in mind, the Transportation Options training highlighted the comparative costs of car ownership vs. reliance on bicycling, walking, and transit. As we discussed with NH staffers, the potential wealth factor--ability to save money over time--is significant. And the comparison is equally relevant when considering the pros and cons of owning a second motor vehicle.
NH staff learn more about transportation options and comparative costs during the two-day workshop led by TLC.
Our training emphasized a comprehensive perspective, recognizing that a family's financial wellbeing and real cost of living are determined by many interconnected choices and decisions. A less expensive apartment in the suburbs, for example, may be more than offset by higher transportation costs; a new job offering a higher wage of $2 more per hour may only be a win financially if it is located on a bus route or is accessible by bike.
Later this year, TLC will reconnect with the NH Basic Needs staff who participated in this pilot workshop to see how they have applied the transportation information and experience in their daily work serving low-income families in Saint Paul. TLC also looks forward to leading additional Transportation Options trainings for similar economic empowerment organizations, service agencies, and other groups.
Special thanks to folks at Cycles for Change, HOURCAR, Metro Transit, and Nice Ride Minnesota!
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