Real stories from real people.
That is what the Greater New Haven branch of the NAACP hopes to gain at a public forum on transportation and employment to be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Luke's Church, 111 Whalley Ave.
The branch, with partners that include the South Central Regional Council of Governments, Workforce Alliance and Data Haven, has studied the issue of transportation in the last year, an outgrowth of the work done for its Urban Apartheid Report released in 2013.
The data-driven Urban Apartheid Report showed vast economic, educational, health and other inequities between people of color and whites in Greater New Haven. Transportation was identified in the report as a critical issue.
"Transportation as it affects jobs and employment opportunities has now become a civil rights issue," said former NAACP branch President James Rawlings.
"The lack of reliable public transportation, combined with the sprawling distribution of jobs across our metropolitan area, may be the largest barrier that residents face in accessing employment.
"In New Haven County, African-American workers are six times more likely to rely on public transportation than non-minority workers," the report said. "A very large share of our younger residents and low-income families are unable to afford a reliable vehicle, and many elderly or disabled residents are unable to drive."
Branch executive board member and technical adviser James Rawlins, who has been assisting with the transportation task force and helping to facilitate the upcoming forum, said the hope is to "gather more of a voice."
"What we know today is that within the city, a large portion of the middle- to lower-income population has a need for public transportation," Rawlins said.
Yet, because of transportation challenges, it can be very difficult to find work or keep a job, he said.
Many people have to travel outside the city to more suburban areas for work and public transportation availability varies, he said.
"It creates more of a hardship for people who want to change their quality of life and do not have a car or can't drive," Rawlins said. "We believe it is very important for members of the community who are challenged by this reality to come to the meeting."
Part of the reality is that individuals who live in suburbia often commute into New Haven for the higher-paying jobs and people in lower-paying jobs have to travel to suburbia, he said.
Among issues are the need to create more jobs in the city and to find ways to make it less of a hardship for those who have to travel, he said.
NAACP member and New Haven business owner Howard K. Hill said the research and meeting are about transportation and job access, with transportation options not necessarily working well for those who need them
"It is really, really important that we show up in strong numbers to be able to influence how public transportation serves the community," Hill said.
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