Look closely at the orange and green splotches on new mapping of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, and you’ll begin to understand why building the Southwest Light Rail Transit line (SWLRT) has become so important in special session negotiations, for both Minnesota business leaders and advocates for economic and racial justice.
Orange blobs on these maps represent the largest concentrations of metro job vacancies, while the green blobs mark the greatest densities of underemployed job seekers. Connecting those needy blobs — workers in need and employers in need — should be a driving force in transportation policy. And the dotted line to the southwest, representing the proposed SWLRT, comes close to connecting two of the largest orange and green blobs.
Those maps and an abundance of other current data and advice for transit and workforce development are part of an impressive report that was released toward the end of the regular session by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies. A distinguished U of M associate professor in transportation policy, Yingling Fan, is the lead author.
The report — "Linking the Unemployed to Jobs: Integrated Transit Planning and Workforce Development’’ — provides a strong foundation of support for two fairly straightforward propositions.
One, we do need aggressive investment and a build-out of both commuter rail and other transit options, to help alleviate both an emerging labor shortage and to address mounting concerns about racial equity and widening disparities in workforce and economic outcomes.
Two, transit development really must be more closely coordinated with workforce training and workforce development policies. Underskilled and underemployed young adults of color living on the north side, for instance, should be nudged more specifically into fast-track Career Pathway training for the specific kinds of jobs opening up in the suburbs, to which a transit build-out will provide quicker access.