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Ride to Work program hoping to expand

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News File Photo

A lack of transportation is one of the biggest obstacles for people trying to climb out of poverty. But now one Syracuse-area program that is helping fill that gap, is hoping to expand.

It’s been a year since Providence Services of Syracuse started a Ride to Work pilot program that helps unemployed people accept jobs they might not ordinarily get, because of a lack of transportation. And Providence President Deborah Hundley has been amazed at how quickly the participants have been able to wean themselves off a transportation subsidy.

"It’s taking one to four months, one to four months working with us, they get a job and they become transportation independent,” said Hundley.

Centro bus service is often the primary transportation for many of these people. But buses many times don’t run during overnight hours when some shifts start or end. And there are some job locations the bus company simply doesn’t serve. So Providence subsidizes taxi rides for men and women who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to take a particular job, or who are paying a lot for transportation just to keep a job.

“If you’re close to minimum wage and you’re spending $85 a week or one person was spending $200 a week for transportation, what’s left?” Hundley.

Hundley says funding for the pilot program, which focused on Syracuse and the eastern suburbs, runs out next year. Her goal now is to convince local governments or nonprofits to offer some seed money so it can expand enough to serve 200 people a year.

“We’re going to have to have a six-month period where people recognize it is available, and then they can sign up and get jobs. Right now, you don’t even apply for a job is you don’t have transportation,” said Hundley.

Hundley says this affects people trying to get second or third shift jobs, or those in areas where public transportation is not available. Right now the program helps between 10 and 12 people at a time.

“Just trying to show people there is a solution here. And all these people can have jobs and good lives. It’s just amazing.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.