Baltimore-area nonprofit Vehicles for Change, Inc. (VFC) hosted the first Economic Mobility Forum recently to develop transportation solutions for low-income families who lack access to reliable transportation in the Baltimore metropolitan area. More than 100 regional leaders and community members participated in a half-day think tank and contributed to roundtable discussions that will help shape VFC’s pilot project.
The forum marked the official introduction of the project that is expected to launch in Baltimore this summer. According to the Brookings Institute, more than 80,000 Baltimore residents lack access to a vehicle, while the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance shows 75 percent of jobs are based outside city limits. The project aims to develop a series of transportation initiatives that will increase access to jobs, health care and healthy living options, adult education and training and before/after school and leisure activities.
“The challenges in this region related to the absence of viable transportation access create socioeconomic imprisonment for our communities, especially for low-resourced neighborhoods,” said Diane Bell-McKoy, CEO of Associated Black Charities and moderator of the forum’s Impact on Healthy Living and Family Structure Panel. “These same transportation challenges also weaken the economic strength of businesses, limiting their access to very talented and capable individuals. I am excited to see VFC bringing all sectors of the region together for this discussion, allowing us all to see how we are collectively impacted.”
Over the next six months, VFC will develop a plan utilizing a combination of various modes of transportation, including bus and van coordination to grocery stores and medical appointments; bike share programs; van share programs from the city to major jobs hubs; expansion of “Last Mile” programs; and low-cost car ownership through VFC’s car award program. Upon completion, the pilot project will serve as a model for improving transportation networks in metropolitan neighborhoods across the country.
“PNC is invested in the success of the local communities we serve,” said Séson Taylor-Campbell, development adviser for PNC Community Development Banking, title sponsor of the Economic Mobility Forum. “We are committed to supporting organizations like VFC in an effort to make the greatest and deepest impact in underserved neighborhoods that need help the most.”
Sponsored by PNC Bank, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, Wells Fargo and CC&A Web Development, the forum featured panels that emphasized how barriers to transportation impact various aspects of quality of life. Donald Fry, of Greater Baltimore Committee; Bell-McKoy; and Rodney Foxworth, of Warnock Foundation facilitated panels during the event.