“Help Wanted” Moving Forward with Reverse Commuting; Needed, a Strategy

April 1996 / Abell Reports / Community Development, Workforce Development

A “mobility strategy” could make a positive difference to Baltimore City and to the entire Baltimore region. But developing one has proven, historically, difficult.

The tragic death of 17-year old Cynthia Wiggins in Buffalo, N.Y., on Dec. 14, 1995 has focused national atten­tion on a hidden agenda in public trans­portation — bus route discrimination.

Ms. Wiggins was struck and killed by a 10-ton dump truck while crossing Walden Avenue, a busy, 7-lane highway with no sidewalk. The highway serves the glamorous Walden Galleria Mall in suburban Buffalo, where Ms. Wiggins worked as a cashier in Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips. Every evening, to catch her bus back to the inner city, she was forced to make the dangerous crossing over the highway. She had no choice. She could not catch the bus at the Mall; buses from the city are not allowed on the Mall’s grounds.

In this case a policy that works to discourage people who live in the city from working in the suburbs cost Ms. Wiggins her life, a sad first. But the policy has an inhibiting effect every day on employment opportunities for people who live in the city looking to work in the suburbs. Kenneth Cowdery, who runs a job training center in Buffalo, says he saw more than 100 jobs go unfilled last year because his mostly black clients couldn’t find a way to get to work. But to see the deleterious effect when, with jobs scarce in the city but plentiful in the suburbs, city residents are denied the opportunity to work in the suburbs because reasonable, workable transportation isn’t there, one need not go to Buffalo. Baltimore will do.