No Car, No Job; No Job, No Car: Solving the Transportation Paradox

Page 1

JUNE 2022

No Car, No Job; No Job, No Car: Solving the Transportation Paradox An initiative of the Fund for Our Economic Future





Table of Contents

04-07 Introduction

08-11 The Paradox Prize

12-17 What We Learned

18-19 Pilot Program Introduction

01: 02: 03: 04: 20-21




Meet Team Let’s Get to Work Lorain County

Meet Team Rural Mobility Solutions

Meet Team Stark Career Connect

Meet Team FlexRide

05: 06: 07: 08: 30-33



Meet Team Transit GO

Meet Team Career Access Navigation

Meet Team Get2Work Now


Meet Team Healthy Transportation Choices

44-47 Where We Go From Here


Notable Quotes

50-51 Thank You


The Paradox Prize


Far too many Northeast Ohioans face a critical paradox: They don’t have a car, so they can’t get a job. And since they can’t get a job, they don’t have a car. In June 2019, the Fund for Our Economic Future set out to solve this chicken-and-egg challenge with up to $1 million in funding to support new and innovative ways to connect people to jobs and employers to the talent they need. Through a public competition known as The Paradox Prize, the Fund and its partners sourced more than 150 proposals from across the region—proving high demand for efficient, affordable and accessible transportation solutions. Ultimately, eight ideas rose to the top. With funding and technical assistance, the pilot teams have spent the last few years refining and implementing their visions. What follows is a recounting of what the pilots achieved and what the Fund and its partners learned through the process. In short, the transportation paradox is solvable.




The Paradox Prize

The “no car, no job; no job, no car” paradox didn’t happen overnight. Over the last several decades in Northeast Ohio, people and jobs have migrated outward, further away from city centers. Though people and businesses are spread out across more land today than they were 50 years ago, the region has not seen a corresponding increase in population or jobs. This means everything is farther apart, making it difficult for people, especially those without access to a car, to get around. The challenge is more prevalent than many might guess. Northeast Ohio’s Black residents are disproportionately affected, as they are overrepresented in areas of economic distress, where rates of car ownership are low. Indeed, those in greatest need of transportation support and good job access are the least likely to have it. A 2015 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland found that jobs are the least accessible for workers with a high school degree or equivalent—the largest share of Northeast Ohio’s workforce—who are also more likely to not own a car and rely on public transportation.

Meanwhile, for the region’s employers, the increased distance between people and jobs reduces access to workforce and creates hiring and retention challenges. Long commutes increase turnover and, as a result, the cost of doing business. As the Fund for Our Economic Future proposed in The Two Tomorrows in 2018, in order for more people to access good jobs, two things must happen: 1) new jobs grow in areas of concentrated activity that are easily accessible by public transit; and 2) a greater number of efficient and affordable transportation options make it easier for people to get to existing jobs. The Fund has been working for years to build up areas of concentrated economic activity—or, job hubs—to bring jobs closer to people. Such redevelopment is a long-term proposition and will take decades to be realized. In the meantime, Northeast Ohio residents struggle to get to work and employers struggle to find talent. The Fund saw an opportunity to jumpstart new ideas that can help people get to jobs today. Enter: The Paradox Prize.

Residents are faced with an intractable choice: an expensive, car-based commute; a commute that may involve multiple buses and take upwards of 90 minutes one-way; or a smaller set of employment options closer to home that may not pay as well nor put them on the path to career advancement.

For more on the Fund’s work to build up regional job hubs and bring more jobs to people, see


NO CAR, NO JOB. The Paradox Prize


NO JOB, NO CAR. With critical support from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, The Lozick Family Foundation, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Cuyahoga County, the Cleveland Foundation, and DriveOhio, the Fund launched The Paradox Prize with up to $1 million in funding to jumpstart new ideas to improve Northeast Ohioans’ access to jobs and connect businesses to needed talent.



“Transportation is everybody’s business, including employers who seek talent to grow, workforce agencies putting people on a path to family-sustaining jobs, economic and real estate developers attracting and placing companies, and civic innovators with new and better ideas for getting people from here to there.”

The Paradox Prize


Through three rounds of public competition over the course of several months, the Prize sourced more than 150 proposals from across the region. An Advisory and Selection Committee (see page 51) composed of leaders in transportation, business, philanthropy, and workforce and community development vetted and ultimately selected eight pilots to receive resources and technical assistance. The ideas ranged from the testing of new public transit routes through on-demand vanpool service, to utilizing unused church vans to transport workers to suburban job centers. The pilot teams brought together public transportation agencies, workforce development organizations, innovators, nonprofits, and community-based organizations. Operating across urban, suburban, and rural communities in seven counties, the pilots benefited more than 1,300 residents, enabling individuals to connect to jobs that were previously inaccessible, and worked with more than 400 employers. Certainly, not every pilot went as initially planned. Some faced unforeseen implementation delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, others adjusted milestones or pivoted their original plans. But in a short period of time, several pilots have resulted in enduring service to users, and others are working toward long-term sustainability. The pages that follow share some of the big takeaways from the pilots and recommendations for what comes next. Profiles of all the teams and their efforts are included in the hopes that others can learn from and build on the work they’ve started.


WHAT WE LEARNED The Paradox is Solvable

The Paradox Prize proved Northeast Ohio is capable of developing and supporting a variety of affordable, efficient transportation options that help people get, keep and advance in jobs.

On the whole, the eight pilots:

Established new collaborations; and

Produced a deeper understanding of demand and community transportation needs and insight into workforce barriers broadly.

Benefited more than 1,300 Northeast Ohio residents— far exceeding the original target of 400 people using piloted solutions. These individuals saw declines in the cost and time to commute and were able to access jobs that were previously inaccessible. About half of those who participated were women, and of those who reported racial or ethnic identity, 66% identified as a person of color; Connected with more than 400 employers, enabling them to fill open positions and better support current employees;

The Paradox Prize pilots made a significant impact on real people and businesses and went a long way in improving worker mobility in Northeast Ohio—but the long-term objective of the initiative was always about cracking the paradox for good. The following seven lessons are a springboard to get from eight pilots to real, lasting change for the 4 million-plus residents who call Northeast Ohio home.


Lesson 01:

Lesson 02:

Transportation is everybody’s business.

Success is building on the existing public transit system, not blowing it up.

It is understandable to want to turn back the clock and develop Northeast Ohio differently, so the region is not as spread out. But the reality is jobs and people are far apart and businesses are struggling to find talent. Going forward, building up concentrated areas of economic activity is critical to the region’s future competitiveness and prosperity. In the meantime, getting around remains a big, expensive challenge that requires the full support of leaders across all sectors to solve. “Transportation is not just for public transit agencies and city planners to figure out,” said Bethia Burke, president of the Fund. “It’s everybody’s business, including employers who seek talent to grow, workforce agencies putting people on a path to familysustaining jobs, economic and real estate developers attracting and placing companies, and civic innovators with new and better ideas for getting people from here to there.” The Paradox Prize provided critical seed funding for new ideas to sprout and demonstrated there is room and appetite for different modes of transportation. The ideas worked in large part because many different actors—public transit agencies, workforce development organizations, innovators, public sector leaders, and others—came together to support them. Transportation can be more available and more affordable only with the full support of a wide range of partners.

Increased funding from state and federal governments to ensure effective, efficient and innovative public transit systems is absolutely needed—and, it isn’t a silver bullet. Transit agencies can’t be all things to all people. Even with greater resources, there will be gaps they just can’t conceivably fill in a region with relatively low density. The Paradox Prize was about encouraging additional modes of transportation that complement public transit so agencies can focus on core competencies and improve services. Transit agencies are important partners in this work. Indeed, all but one of the pilots were either led or supported in some capacity by them. The Rural Mobility Solutions pilot in Wayne County (see page 22), for example, had great success, but was able to strengthen and sustain its efforts through a subsequent partnership with Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), the transit agency in neighboring Stark County. The team led by the Cleveland Clergy Coalition, the American Association of Clergy and Employers, and Manufacturing Works, on the other hand, faced some initial obstacles to implement its plan to connect residents on the east side of Cleveland to goodpaying jobs located in outlying suburbs using a fleet of church vans that sit idle during the week (see page 38). While the concept of repurposing underutilized assets is creative and admirable, the pilot demonstrated that tapping into existing transit infrastructure and supports is critical for long-term sustainability and success.


What We Learned

Lesson 03: Flexible funding matters. Public transportation agencies want to improve service, but the ability to experiment is limited by funding and legal constraints. In addition to the known cuts in funding over time, agencies also face restrictions that limit what can be done with federal funding. For example, public agencies can’t stop a service once it’s started without going through a demanding regulatory process, making it difficult to test a new route. “Funding from The Paradox Prize enabled us to explore and execute a service that capitalized on existing assets to address an identified need, and to do so without being forced to suspend critical existing transit services to pilot a new solution,” said Akron METRO RTA CEO Dawn Distler. With The Paradox Prize’s support, METRO launched FlexRide, a door-todoor, on-demand service connecting workers living in the city of Akron to employers in northern Summit County (see page 28). Similarly, Laketran, the public transit agency in Lake County, started out wanting to partner with a few local employers by providing vanpool service, but the pandemic made it difficult for the partnerships to get off the ground. Laketran, instead,

developed a free-transit-pass program for participating employers along designated routes to better understand demand and what, if any, adjustments should be made to service (see page 30). For example, the pilot revealed that employees with 6 A.M. shift times couldn’t use transit to get to their jobs, since Laketran’s service only started at 6 A.M. As a result, Laketran is considering adjusting the fixed-route schedule or exploring other ways to support workers who need transportation at this time. Flexible funding is not just key to understanding service demand and routing. Through its pilot program with The Centers, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) was able to gather critical data on its fare structure (see page 34). The pilot revealed that most clients had previously purchased daily or weekly passes, because the cost is less up front than a monthly pass. But often they wound up spending more in incremental tickets than a monthly pass would have cost in the first place. RTA is now considering fare capping or other payment reforms to create greater equity. The takeaway? A state innovation fund could enable greater experimentation by public agencies that could result in more responsive and nimble organizations.

The Paradox Prize

15 15

Lesson 04: Workforce development and transportation go hand in hand. Working closely with individuals to help them overcome barriers to getting, keeping and advancing in a career, workforce development organizations are in a unique position to understand individual transportation needs and challenges. By working more collaboratively with transportation providers and thinking more expansively about potential solutions, workforce development organizations can play a critical role in increasing individuals’ access to jobs. For instance, in Lorain County, the use of an electric car share service through Sway Mobility aided two workforce development agencies in transporting participants to job interviews and to work and providing access to other critical needs that enabled individuals to be better and more reliable workers. The shared, environmentally sustainable method of transportation was more economical for the workforce development organizations than operating their own van service (see more on page 20). The pilot team led by Strengthening Stark, a local economic development collaborative, set out to use Paradox Prize funding to equip a network of workforce development organizations with transportation supports for their participants. The team anticipated using a large portion to go toward free bus passes for individuals, but they quickly learned this was not always the most helpful option. Given that the public transit system in Stark County is somewhat limited in the number of stops and frequency, it was difficult for many individuals to get to their jobs on a bus route. Instead, the team of workforce development partners was able to provide transportation support in other ways—through funding to cover small car repairs, fix a flat tire, or to help individuals access driver’s license education and testing. (See more on page 26.)

Lesson 05: Transportation needs to be factored into business decisions sooner. Transportation is ignored until it’s too late. Too late for a business that builds out a new location in an area not easily accessible by public transit and without sidewalks, and then realizes no one can get there. Too late for an employee who assures a prospective employer they have reliable transportation and then loses their job because their used car keeps breaking down and they’ve been tardy one too many times.


What We Learned

By and large, businesses and the entities assisting them in location decisions overlook employee transportation considerations. When the prevailing assumption is everyone drives, those who rely on other forms of transportation are hidden and a critical part of the workforce is inadvertently excluded. Individuals are asked on job applications or in interviews if they have reliable transportation, say yes and then work to figure it out until they can’t. Employers see employees who can’t make it to work on time. During this time of increased pressure on employers to find and retain talent, the question shouldn’t be, “Can you get here?” but, “How can I help you get here?” Transportation needs to be considered more proactively. Economic developers charged with supporting business attraction and expansion need consistent ways to bring transportation into the discussion and problem-solve with companies before location decisions are even made. A new tool launched in April 2022 by the Fund and Team NEO makes this easier. Developed by the Center for Neighborhood Progress, the Equity, Sustainability and Governance to the Power of Place, or ESG^P tool enables business users to see the full picture when it comes to site selection. With ESG^P (, users can compare up to five potential business sites across Northeast Ohio using the following factors: •

Access to Talent: How big is the labor pool within a 30-minute commute by car, by public transit, by bicycle, or on foot?

Racial Equity: What are the racial and ethnic demographics of the available labor force?

Commuter Emissions: What are the environmental impacts of workers commuting to this site?

Lesson 06: Businesses need more support to adopt solutions. Northeast Ohio residents continue to cite better transportation as a top desire or a lack of reliable and affordable transportation as a major barrier to their accessing and keeping a job. See this survey of young professionals from Engage! Cleveland (tinyurl. com/4t4whuf3), this survey of people living in poverty from the Center for Community Solutions (, or recent data from an effort led by the Fund for Our Economic Future, on page 46. The challenge is very few businesses are equipped to respond or know where to start. Company executives and HR professionals need a mobility ambassador or other supports that can help them better understand their workers’ needs and address them through commuter and transportation benefits that appropriately respond to those needs. Employers can start by asking their current employees how they get to work and whether they’d be interested in other commute options or transportation benefits. Another idea: Businesses could include commute information in job postings, so individuals know if the business is located on a bus line or what options might exist to get to the job before they even apply. For more ideas on how to be commuter-friendly, turn to page 47. Finally, the region needs more vocal business champions who support transportation, can lead by example and serve as proof points for other businesses, big and small, on how to improve mobility. For an example of what one employer (The MetroHealth System) achieved through its pilot, turn to page 40.

The Paradox Prize

Lesson 07: Better transportation changes lives. The opportunity to accept a better-paying job that was previously inaccessible. The ability to save money and get some footing after starting a new job. The chance to access a shared vehicle in a pinch after a car breaks down or a carpool falls through. Time after time, the pilot teams shared inspiring stories of how individual users were positively impacted by the service they received. Many of those stories are included throughout this report. The Fund for Our Economic Future is grateful for their participation and will continue to work toward a better future for all Northeast Ohioans, regardless of race or place.


18 18


MEET THE TEAMS Learn from Their Stories

The eight pilot teams you’re about to meet are more than just winners of The Paradox Prize: They are trailblazers, forming uncommon partnerships to address a common problem and pulling together their expertise, networks, capacity, and resources to try something new so more individuals can connect to good jobs. May their efforts inspire others to create a region where affordable, accessible and efficient transportation options abound.


Read About the Pilots


Team Let’s Get To Work Lorain County

Carrie Porter Director of Planning and Development City of Oberlin

Michael Peters CEO Sway Mobility

Wendy Caldwell CEO Place to Recover Training and Resource Center

Linda Arbogast Sustainability Coordinator City of Oberlin


21 21

The Paradox Prize

MEET TEAM LET’S GET TO WORK LORAIN COUNTY Unlocked latent transit demand with expanded service. Leaders in Lorain County recognized that transportation service has been somewhat limited, especially for those working second or third shifts at any of the many manufacturing facilities in the county. At the same time, the city of Oberlin saw an opportunity to improve not only frequency of service but also the carbon footprint of the city and county through access to electric vehicles. Through a collaborative effort, several partners throughout the county joined together to expand the frequency and hours of the local public transit system and establish an electric car-sharing service. Lorain County Transit expanded its Oberlin Connector service from two days a week to five days a week, and extended hours of operation to better serve those working second or third shifts. Service is now available (for $2 a trip) from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. five days a week. Additionally, The Paradox Prize grant supported the establishment of an electric car share program between two Lorain County nonprofits, Place to Recover Training and Resource Center in Sheffield Township and Catholic Charities’ St. Elizabeth Center in Lorain, to provide transportation services to individuals seeking access to job training, interviews, jobs, or other needs.


Read the Full Article

COLL ABOR ATORS: City of Oberlin Sway Mobility Lorain County Transit Catholic Charities Place to Recover

These combined efforts served more than 230 people. The team learned that tweaks to an existing transit system, like the alignment of service and shift times, can make a big difference in expanding access to jobs. And, electric car-sharing systems aren’t just for the young and the wealthy. The shared use of an electric vehicle between Catholic Charities and A Place to Recover has been more efficient and cost effective than each organization purchasing a van.


In late 2021, Oberlin City Council voted to apply American Rescue Plan funds to maintain the expanded service through at least 2023.



Team Rural Mobility Solutions

Leslie Baus Consultant to Community Action Wayne/Medina

Melissa Pearce Retired President & CEO Community Action Wayne/Medina

Nicole Mourfield Human Resources Coordinator SPEED North America


23 23

The Paradox Prize



Disrupted the notion that public transit can’t work for rural areas. Transportation is not just an urban issue. Residents of rural communities face significant obstacles in getting around, especially in places like Wayne County, which previously did not have any public transportation system. Social service agency Community Action Wayne/Medina (CAW/M) had filled a gap by offering a vanpool service to area residents. But without the help of technology, it was difficult to plan the best, most efficient routes and meet demand. Through The Paradox Prize, CAW/M was able to purchase innovative routing software that enabled it to build upon and improve its existing service and connect a greater number of residents to jobs and other services throughout the county.

Community Action Wayne/Medina Wayne County Mobility Management Wooster Transit




Team Rural Mobility Solutions

The Details:

The Results:

The dynamic routing software enabled CAW/M to offer an on-demand vanpool option, which allowed multiple users with different origins and destinations throughout the county to access an affordable, efficient service.

In October 2021, SARTA began offering microtransit transportation services to neighboring Wayne County residents.

Through the use of a smart card, scanned by drivers with handheld tablets at the start of each ride, CAW/M was able to easily track the service’s use and also layer on subsidies for residents on Medicaid or other assistance programs. Those residents using the workplace access service to get to and from a new job were able to commute for free during their first 20 days on the job.

The service marks what Melissa Pearce, retired president and CEO of Community Action Wayne/Medina, calls the county’s first “true public transit” offering.

More than 100 Wayne County residents took advantage of free or subsidized vanpool rides to around 25 different employers through the pilot. CAW/M used pilot findings to encourage Wayne County Commissioners to initiate a county-wide transportation survey in the third quarter of 2020. Residents expressed enthusiasm for transportation solutions to help them access jobs, similar to the one being piloted. This led to conversations with neighboring Stark County’s public transportation system, Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), and the eventual awarding of a $1.4 million grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation to support the launch of Wayne County Transit.

Dubbed Wayne County Transit (WCT), the curb-to-curb service is open to anyone in Wayne County regardless of income.

“Any county resident can get any place in the county for $2.50 a ride,” she said. "You don’t have to live on a bus loop or find a way to get from your rural residence to a bus stop, which could be miles away. This is curb-to-curb service.”

Speed North America is one Wayne County company that has benefited from the service. Patrick Le Denmat, CEO of the Wooster manufacturing company, estimates that not a week goes by that someone can’t make it to work because of a flat tire, dead battery or carpool breakdown. “And we need those people,” he said. Monitoring demand will help Wayne County officials determine if and how they can sustain WCT long term. Pearce is most proud of driving down the user cost, which started at $8 per ride during the workplace access pilot but is now available to anyone for just $2.50.


“That’s a game changer,” she said. “It makes it much more possible for people to work out of poverty and create the lives that they and their families need.” Excerpted from a Crain’s Content Studio-Cleveland article published November 7, 2021.

The Paradox Prize

Photo by SARTA



Team Stark Career Connect

Kevin Stillwell Employment Navigator The Greater Stark County Urban League

Aleisha Stout Project Manager Strengthening Stark

Mark Finnicum Chief Operations Officer Stark Area Regional Transit Authority





Read the Full Article

COLL ABOR ATORS: Strengthening Stark OhioMeansJobs Stark County

Brought together transportation and workforce development services. The Stark Career Connect pilot is all about collaboration and integration. Strengthening Stark, a countywide economic development collaborative, worked with a dozen local organizations, including the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority, to better integrate transportation supports into workforce development services. Through regular meetings, this group committed to connecting job seekers with in-demand jobs, sharing insights, resources and helping each other address barriers that exist for job seekers. More than 400 people have been supported by Stark Career Connect, many of whom needed transportation supports ranging from free transit passes to minor car repairs, to maintain and advance in careers. The effort placed individuals in jobs at nearly 140 different employers. The pilot underscored the need for flexible and individualized wraparound supports within workforce development. Aleisha Stout of Strengthening Stark relayed a success story: An individual, making less than $10 an hour working as a home health aide, had no car or reliable transportation and lacked general support. With the support of one of Stark Career Connect’s many workforce development partners, the individual connected to Aultman’s STNA train-to-hire program. With The Paradox Prize funding, Stark Career Connect provided a bus pass for the woman’s first 31 days of employment. She was then able to budget for her own bus expense and after a few months of stable employment and a higher wage (nearly $17 an hour), purchased a reliable car.

Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) Greater Stark County Urban League Goodwill Industries ECO ICAN Housing Project REBUILD Stark County Community Action Agency Stark State College United Way Stark County Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce




Team FlexRide

Emily Baarson Senior Planner Akron METRO Regional Transit Authority

Matthew Mullen Government Affairs and Compliance Specialist Akron METRO Regional Transit Authority

Jenny Stupica Director of Manufacturing Engagement ConxusNEO


29 29

The Paradox Prize


Informed long-term approach to better connecting with employers. The Paradox Prize enabled Akron METRO RTA to pilot a demand-response transportation service to inform development of new mobility options for Summit County. Through a collaboration with ConxusNEO, Summit County’s workforce sector partnership, the concept of a door-to-door van service was born. Called FlexRide, the program focused on worker transportation from areas of high unemployment in the city of Akron to businesses with high job needs in northern Summit County, an area difficult to serve with traditional bus service. Once news of FlexRide spread, METRO received requests for service in additional areas, including neighboring Portage County. METRO expanded the reach of the service to include job hubs in other areas of Summit County and has successfully served a number of businesses with their workforce transportation needs. Since the program requires direct partnership with employers, METRO and ConxusNEO have learned a lot about what businesses are facing as it relates to employee attraction and retention and are striving to adapt service offerings to support these needs into the future. “One machine left idle for a single day can cost a company thousands of dollars in lost productivity,” said Jenny Stupica, director of manufacturing engagement for ConxusNEO. “The cost to the company for an individual to participate in this pilot program is only $8.33 per day. With many manufacturing companies struggling with multiple open positions and many idle machines, this becomes a significant impact to the bottom line. FlexRide also gives companies the ability to promote their job opportunities in a larger geographic area than was previously realistic due to the length and complexity of a standard bus ride.” Main Street Gourmet, a food manufacturer in Cuyahoga Falls that employs about 200 people, is participating in the FlexRide program. Miranda Rosado, a human resources coordinator there, said she’s noticed a big improvement in the attendance of the eight employees who use the service.


Read the Full Article





Team Transit GO

Ben Capelle CEO Laketran

Julia Schick Director of Communications Laketran

Patrick Mohorcic Director of Public Finance & CFO Lake Development Authority

Andrea Aaby Director of Compliance & Development Laketran



The Paradox Prize



Read the Full Article

COLL ABOR ATORS: Laketran Lake County Board of Commissioners

Went from pilot to permanent free transit offering in less than 18 months. Through The Paradox Prize, Laketran set out to work more closely with area employers to help them fill open positions. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted original plans to provide on-demand vanpool service for two local employers, so Laketran began exploring other ways to make inroads with the business community. Laketran and the Lake County Commissioners Office proposed to offer free fares to riders traveling to and from employers situated on Laketran’s newest fixed routes that provide transportation to previously underserved areas.

Lake County Port and Economic Development Authority Lincoln Electric




Team Transit GO

The Details:

The Results:

Launched in December 2020, Transit GO is a transit benefit program for Lake County employers to provide free transportation to employees using Laketran. Laketran originally launched the program with the intent to provide free fares on local in-county fixed routes, due to lower cost of operation and available capacity. In April 2021, Laketran expanded the transportation options for the program to include Dial-a-Ride, its door-to-door demand responsive service that serves the entire county and is open to any Lake County resident regardless of age or disability status.

The Transit GO program has provided Laketran an opportunity to learn more about the unmet transit needs in its community while building a stronger relationship with Lake County employers. For instance, Laketran has learned that earlier morning and later evening service would be beneficial for many workers, as well as increased service along certain routes. In a little over a year after launching the program, Laketran has made Transit GO a permanent offering for Lake County employers and workers, with support from the Ohio Department of Transportation and a local sales tax levy.

As of May 2022, more than 400 employees at nearly 160 employers have taken advantage of the program. On average, employees who use local routes to get to work are saving $70/ month in transportation costs. Employees using Dial-a-Ride are saving up to $400/month. These are significant cost savings when considering the average hourly wage of participating employees is roughly $12 an hour.



At the Mentor fast-casual eatery Zoup!, two staff members participate in Transit GO, including one employee who has taken the bus to work at the restaurant for nine years. “He probably would have kept paying for the transportation but, particularly in this economy, you want to give your workers as much money as you possibly can,” said owner Jamie Buzzanca. “If I can help him save that money, that’s more in his pocket to use elsewhere.” Transit GO has given Buzzanca another incentive to attract talent. Before the pilot, if a potential new hire didn’t have a car or live on the bus line, it was often a non-starter. That’s changed. “As I interview people now, I throw it out there that if they don’t have transportation every day, there are a few different avenues we can explore for that,” he said. “I tell them it’s something I will go to bat for them on, if they’re interested.” Excerpted from a Crain’s Content Studio-Cleveland article published on September 26, 2021.


Team Career Access Navigation

Eric Morse President and CEO The Centers

Maribeth Feke Director of Planning Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority

José Feliciano, Jr. External Affairs Manager Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority

Melissa Russoniello Director of Workforce Programs The Centers

Michael Peters CEO Sway Mobility

Aysha Wilburn Director of 2Gen Strategy The Centers


35 35

The Paradox Prize


Read the Full Article


Made the case for greater fare equity. The Centers, which provides health, family, and workforce services at 12 locations throughout Greater Cleveland, teamed up with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) and Sway Mobility to offer individuals coming to its El Barrio Workforce Development Center access to transportation to get to training, interviews, jobs, and other needed supports to help them secure and retain employment. Through free bus passes and access to an electric car share service, among other supports, the pilot sought to demonstrate more equitable transportation solutions to stakeholders and community members.

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) Sway Mobility




Team Career Access Navigation

What Was Tested: Fare equity has emerged as a significant issue for public transit agencies. In Cleveland, it has been observed that transit riders without access to upfront capital end up paying 30% more each month in daily passes versus the cost of a monthly pass. This pilot enabled the GCRTA to test the potential for a new fare structure and a future fare capping mechanism.

The Results: El Barrio client Delvon Pheleps said the bus passes allowed him to see family and run errands. In fact, he was on an RTA bus when he noticed a recycling center on the city’s East Side and approached workers about job opportunities. Pheleps started working there for $14 an hour earlier this year and is now making more than $18 an hour. He said he would not have been able to afford a bus pass before the program and doubts he would have landed this opportunity. Maribeth Feke, RTA’s director of planning, said the pilot feedback affirmed that fare affordability is “a major barrier to the use of transit” among lower-income individuals, something the agency had also heard during its 2019 fare study. RTA is currently considering fare capping or other payment reforms to create greater equity, Feke adds. José Feliciano Jr., external affairs manager at the RTA, said the pilot also showed that affordable transportation can help chip away at certain socio-economic inequities, like access to health care, quality childcare and even natural environments, that ultimately contribute to job insecurity and economic distress.

Another big takeaway was that individuals using the passes “mostly sought job opportunities closer to where they lived, even if they paid less,” said Feliciano. “Many of our clients are African-American single mothers and they don’t want to be an hour away on a bus if their child needs something or the person they care for at home needs something,” said Aysha Wilburn, director of 2Gen Strategy at The Centers. “But even beyond that, I do think people want to live and work in the same area because that’s where their family is, that’s where their support system is.” Given the overwhelmingly positive impact of the transit passes, Wilburn said the next steps for The Centers will involve seeing how it can continue to provide free or subsidized transportation options to workforce clients. She wants to extend those benefits to individuals using its early learning programs and health care services as well. Excerpted from a Crain’s Content Studio-Cleveland article published December 5, 2021.

The Paradox Prize

Photo by Sway Mobility



Team Get2Work Now

Ken Patsey President and Executive Director Manufacturing Works

Miesha Headen President American Association of Clergy and Employers

T.J. McGowan Senior Manager, Employment Services Manufacturing Works

Brianna Schultz Vice President, Learning and Development Manufacturing Works

Pastor Aaron Phillips Executive Director Cleveland Clergy Coalition


39 39

The Paradox Prize


Put idle assets to use to connect hard-to-reach workers with hard-to-reach jobs. With a mission to lift residents in some of the poorest ZIP codes in the country out of poverty, the Get2Work Now pilot developed from a partnership between Manufacturing Works, which was trying to meet the need of its manufacturing members to fill entry-level positions, and two faith-based organizations—the Cleveland Clergy Coalition and the American Association of Clergy and Employers. Through Get2Work Now, the team connected more than 50 Cleveland residents from primarily Black neighborhoods on the city’s east side, to manufacturing jobs that pay a familysustaining wage and offer career advancement, using church vans that sit idle during the week to transport them to and from their jobs. Volunteers from the churches served as drivers, but also as informal recruiters and mentors, providing an important social network to support riders.

Read the Full Article

COLL ABOR ATORS: Manufacturing Works Cleveland Clergy Coalition

“But for our outreach, grassroots recruitment and advocacy, these individuals would not have known about these opportunities and employers would have missed out on accessing critical talent,” said Miesha Headen, president of the American Association of Clergy and Employers.

American Association of Clergy & Employers

Originally designed as a service that would operate between neighborhood and employment hubs, the service soon shifted to a door-to-door offering to better accommodate users. The volunteer drivers now transport individuals to interviews, training programs and jobs, no matter the shift or time of day.




Team Healthy Transportation Choices

Sarah O’Keeffe Director, Sustainability The MetroHealth System

Becky Luton Former Food Services Retail Aide The MetroHealth System


41 41

The Paradox Prize



Read the Full Article


Demonstrated hidden power of employer policies and practices through institutional change. Through its pilot, The MetroHealth System set out to determine how it can simultaneously help employees get to work, thereby improving retention as well as attraction of new employees; offer incentives for employees to improve their health; and contribute to more sustainable practices for the good of the environment. Spearheaded by the Office of Sustainability, the multi-phased undertaking includes: offering free monthly transit passes to frontline employees of its main and Old Brooklyn campuses, with an expanded offering during the pilot to employees at any transitconnected campus; the adoption of a daily parking rate; educational supports on how to incorporate public transit and other mobility options; and incentives for using various modes of transportation to commute to work, including a reduction in health care costs. Every step of the way, MetroHealth got feedback from its employees on the pilot, through regular surveys and focus groups. For instance, the free transit passes were initially offered to those living within a one-mile radius of its main and Old Brooklyn campuses. But early feedback suggested frontline employees who lived farther out and near a bus line might benefit more because they had fewer alternatives and often faced multiple transit connections and longer commutes, so the pilot was expanded to include these employees. Such was the case for Karen Walker, who doesn’t own a car, lives in Euclid and takes seven buses to and from her facilities job at MetroHealth’s main campus. In a Crain’s Content Studio-Cleveland article published in October 2021, Karen shared: “It means a lot to me that MetroHealth cares about my commute and what kinds of challenges I face getting to work, because I rely on the buses.”

The MetroHealth System Office of Sustainability • Inclusion, Diversity and Equity • Human Resources • Center for Reducing Health Disparities • Institute for H.O.P.E. • Center for Health Resilience Tri-C Access Center at MetroHealth GCRTA Metro West Community Development Organization




SAR AH O’KEEFFE Director, Sustainability The MetroHealth System

Team Healthy Transportation Choices

“How can employers be more commuter friendly? Find the transit stops, walking paths, bike racks by your location. If you don’t have these, consider why not? There may be a good reason or they might have just been overlooked with the underlying assumption that ‘everyone drives.’ Find out what your industry peers are doing and do your own employee commuter survey. Find out how your employees really get to work. Change ‘Parking’ information for employees to ‘Transportation’ information and list how employees can access different types of commuting modes. These are simple steps that can go a long way in improving how individuals access the jobs you’re looking to fill.”

“I don’t like asking too many people to do things for me. I have to wait for people to pick me up and drop me off. If I get a bus pass, I don’t have to bother anyone. I get independence.”

BECKY LUTON Former Food Services Retail Aide The MetroHealth System

The Paradox Prize

Photo by MetroHealth System



WHERE WE GO FROM HERE Implications for Stakeholders

45 45

Transportation Providers:

Workforce Intermediaries:

Find ways to better understand demand and the unique needs of users in your community, then test new ideas to meet those needs. Make deeper connections with employers to support them in attracting and retaining employees.

Expand transportation supports beyond free transit passes and more fully address commute barriers through a variety of accessible and affordable options that respond to individual needs.


Local & National Funders:

Consider how current and future employees commute to work (start by asking them!) and provide transportation support as part of employee benefits packages. (Turn to page 47 for some ideas!)

Support worker mobility through flexible funding for transportation innovation, both among established and emerging transportation providers.

Economic Developers:


Incorporate transportation considerations earlier in the site selection process and incentivize development in places that are transit-connected. Help businesses integrate transportation more effectively in future decision-making. Check out for a handy tool.

Support increased funding for transit as well as more flexible funding that encourages transportation innovation across urban, suburban and rural communities. Incentivize development in places that are transit-connected.

46 46

WHAT EMPLOYERS, WORKERS & WOULD-BE WORKERS ARE SAYING ABOUT TRANSPORTATION In late 2021, the Fund for Our Economic Future launched a large-scale research and analysis effort to better understand "Where Are the Workers" in Northeast Ohio and to support employers in their attraction and recruitment efforts during a time of seismic labor market shifts. More than 750 businesses and nearly 5,000 workers and would-be workers across Northeast Ohio were surveyed. Here is what they said about transportation:

4% 3% 52% 64%

of employers surveyed listed transportation services/commuter benefits as a top change they implemented in human resources/ talent acquisition in the past two years.

said it was something they’d consider in the next five years.

of working-age adults surveyed consider transportation a barrier to applying for, finding and keeping a job.

of those not currently employed who were surveyed say transportation is a barrier.



01. 02. 03. 04. 05.

Ask your employees how they get to work. A first step is to identify how your employees get to work to understand if there are any challenges. A quick survey of how they commute and their home ZIP code can help you assess needs and set goals for a commuter options program.

Offer pre-tax commuter benefits. Did you know employees can contribute up to $280 pre-tax dollars per month toward commuting expenses, including public transit passes, qualified parking and vanpooling services? This added employee benefit can save employers as much as $40 per employee per month. Check out to learn more.

Encourage carpooling among colleagues. Help employees pair up with colleagues to get to work and gain access to regular transportation, reduce the stress of driving and save money. Platforms like Gohio Commute, Waze and Ride Amigos can help set up a workplace carpooling network.

Consider implementing vanpooling or shuttle services. This is similar to a carpooling system but can group more people per vehicle, reduce overall costs per ride and be more environmentally sustainable. Providers like Share or Commute with Enterprise or employersponsored shuttles are potential options and can qualify as pre-tax transportation benefits to users. NOACA is also supporting vanpool services for employers. Learn more here:

Upgrade your facilities. Better connect to public transit and promote a healthy lifestyle among employees by investing in improved street and bike networks around your workplace. Provide secure bike racks and implement a daily parking rate to encourage lifestyle changes in travel patterns.


NOTABLE QUOTES Key Advice from Team Members

“Solving transportation issues needs a multipronged solution. I think that’s the reality of the mobility ecosystem.” José Feliciano, Jr. External Affairs Manager Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority

“Many of our employees do not drive and depend on other people to get to work or other options that are typically not as reliable as Wooster Transit’s program. Wooster Transit gives them confidence knowing they can easily get to and from work and gives them hope of being able to improve their lives.” Nicole Mourfield Human Resources Coordinator Speed North America

49 “People need individualized, unrestricted and holistic assistance to aide them toward self-sufficiency and it often comes in the form of barrier prevention rather than barrier removal—which is far harder to measure and justify.” Aleisha Stout Project Manager Strengthening Stark

“The Paradox Prize provided a low-risk platform that encouraged transit and social service agencies to partner with Sway, resulting in expanded access to transportation for a new audience while building the track record and credibility that allowed us to continue our growth.” Michael Peters CEO Sway Mobility

“Transit needs to be responsive to the needs of the community. Being flexible and creative has allowed us to create partnerships to help solve the challenge of getting people to work.” Ben Capelle CEO Laketran

“We just need to make sure that going forward, we tailor these types of programs to where the people want to go and where their hopes and dreams are and not assume that we know what they want to do.” Aysha Wilburn Director of 2Gen Strategy The Centers

“Think outside the box of economic development resources and think about the churches and other resources untapped in your community.” Pastor Aaron Phillips Executive Director Cleveland Clergy Coalition

“It makes such a difference to collaborate with community partners when trying to develop transportation infrastructure. While it makes the process more complex, it adds value to the community at large and helps ensure a broader impact.” Linda Arbogast Sustainability Coordinator City of Oberlin


THANK YOU To Our Paradox Prize Partners & Sponsors

51 51

ADVISORY & SELECTION COMMITTEE: Bishara Addison, Towards Employment (Former)

Rich Granger, DriveOhio

Curtis Baker, AMATS

Chris Hitchcock, The Lozick Family Foundation

Nelson Beckford, The Cleveland Foundation (Former)

Jim Kinnick, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments

Debbie Berry, University Circle Inc. (Former)

Rahul Kumar, Keolis North America

Adam Briggs, The Briggs Family Funds

Sue Lacy, ConxusNEO

India Birdsong, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority

Victor Leandry, MOVE Lorain County

Alicia Booker, Cuyahoga Community College

Dominic Mathew, Fund for Our Economic Future (Former)

Bethia Burke, Fund for Our Economic Future

Sara McCarthy, Fund for Our Economic Future (Former)

Ben Capelle, NEORide; Laketran

Marty McGann, Greater Cleveland Partnership

Kirt Conrad, SARTA

John Mitterholzer, The George Gund Foundation

Robert DeJournett, Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce

Melissa Pearce, Community Action Wayne/Medina (Former)

Dawn Distler, METRO Regional Transit Authority

John T. Petures, Jr., Akron Community Foundation

Sheri Dozier, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress

Jeffrey Sleasman, Clevelanders for Public Transit



The Fund for Our Economic Future is a creative space for philanthropic funders and civic leaders to explore what matters and implement what works to achieve equitable economic growth, emphasizing systemic, long-term change. Our vision is a growing Northeast Ohio economy creating good jobs and rising incomes for everyone, regardless of race or place.


Fund for Our Economic Future 4415 Euclid Ave., Suite 203 Cleveland, OH 44103