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He wants what he has had for most of his 49 years: He wants a job. 'I need a job, but I can't get there.' I just want to feel like I’m back, like I’m part of the world again.” Stinson's challenge underscores a formidable barrier separating millions of poor Americans from the working world, particularly as work continues to shift to the suburbs: Limited public transportation networks reduce the ability of those who need work to actually find it, worsening an already bleak job market.
But in Chattanooga, as in much of America, getting a job and getting a job are two different things. On top of the most catastrophic economic downturn since the Great Depression, the continued impact of automation, and the shift of domestic production to lower-wage nations, here is a less dramatic yet no less decisive constraint that limits opportunities for many working-age Americans: The bus does not go where the paychecks are.
-- In the two months since he lost his job driving a delivery truck for a door company, Lebron Stinson has absorbed a bitter geography lesson about this riverfront city: The jobs are in one place, he is in another, and the bus does not bridge the divide.
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A free shuttle bus service operates downtown, using a fleet of electric vehicles. But as work has continued its steady march to the suburbs, the transit system has failed to keep pace, limited by what local officials portray as weak public financing.
The result is a metropolitan area in which anyone without a car faces severe limits on employment options.
At the bottom of the list is Chattanooga, a metropolitan area with an official labor force of about 262,000 people.
Here, only 22.5 percent of working-age residents have access to public transportation.
As the months pass without a paycheck, his eyes show the weight of sadness and wounded pride. This is especially so in medium-sized cities such as Chattanooga, whose metro area is home to about 530,000 people, putting it in the company of Modesto, Calif., and Jackson, Miss.
“Sometimes, it hits me and I get so depressed," he says. In big, dense cities such as New York and Chicago, traffic can be so awful that even millionaires who can afford chauffeured limousines sometimes ride subways to avoid congestion.For Stinson, it all dates back to a summer night five years ago, when a tire on his 1987 Chevy pickup truck went flat while he was driving near his house. "Everybody wanted to live out in the suburbs and have an acre or two," he says.He pulled into a parking spot, left the pickup and went home. Perhaps we should." As Littlefield, 66, forged his own career as an urban planner, he watched U. "They wanted to be out where the sky is blue and the grass is green, with cul de sacs, and curvilinear streets and no sidewalks." Government enabled this development by constructing an arterial system of roads and highways that put the private automobile at the center of life, yielding the suburban sprawl that defines major metro areas from Phoenix to Houston to Atlanta.“That’s the thing that hurts me the most, having experience and qualifications, but you can’t get to the destination," Stinson says. I’ll tell you, I’m not one to give up hope, but, man, it makes your self-esteem drop. Nearly 40 million working-age people now live in parts of major American metropolitan areas that lack public transportation, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program.The consequences of this disconnection fall with particular severity on the poor.He does not want an unemployment check any more than he wants extra time to sit around his cramped apartment watching daytime television.