Strategic Planning Aligns Transportation with Social, Economic Goals of Region

In the St. Louis area, Transportation Redefined is a long range effort to connect people to jobs through better transportation services. It includes a federally-supported Bridges to Work program to transport workers from the inner city to suburban job sites; a partnership with the State to place young adults in jobs along the MetroLink light rail corridor that links the City and County with East St. Louis, Illinois; and an eight-year regional jobs initiative with projects that target welfare recipients and young African Americans.

In 1994, the St. Louis region launched Transportation Redefined, a 20-year series of strategic activities designed to better align transportation with the region’s social and economic goals. The effort formally elevated to the transportation agenda several key issues once outside the purview of transportation planning, including access to opportunity for low-income residents, welfare-to-work initiatives, and sustainable development.

To understand and address these issues, local and state governments came together through the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council – the region’s metropolitan planning organization and council of governments which bridges Missouri and Illinois – to expand the base of public and private sector partners committed to solving complex local problems in a regional context. This initiative produced a number of new partnerships:

St. Louis Bridges to Work – This is a four-year program designed to test the effectiveness of coordinated job placement, transportation, and career advancement services in linking inner-city job-seekers with employment opportunities in fast-growing suburban areas. St. Louis is one of five Bridges to Work demonstration project sites funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Transit Administration. The St. Louis initiative was designed by officials of the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County, working with the Urban League and the Missouri Department of Social Services. Job-ready individuals, referred from City and County programs, receive assistance in obtaining employment in the job-rich Chesterfield Valley area of St. Louis County. During the first 18 months of employment, participants can take public transit to designated stations on the MetroLink light rail system and there board vans operated by the St. Louis Chapter of the American Red Cross for the balance of their trip to work. The pilot phase of Bridges to Work is now being evaluated by Philadelphia-based Public/Private Ventures, a nonprofit group which is managing the five-city demonstration program.

The Transportation Corridor for Economic Renewal (TRACER) – This is a partnership between the St. Louis region and the State of Missouri that seeks to change the investment climate in the region’s urban core. A City/County/State steering committee is considering strategies to re-energize neighborhoods and business districts along the MetroLink light rail corridor which cuts through the City center and links the three major political jurisdictions -- the City, the County, and the City of East St. Louis, Illinois. Although rich in jobs – 240,000 in 1997 – the corridor has suffered concentrated losses of population and employment, as well as environmental problems.

To jump-start the process, the Missouri Departments of Economic Development and Social Services have invested funds in a Center for Mobility to Work to link young adults with jobs in the corridor through short-term work readiness training, job search assistance, transit subsidies, and extensive post-placement follow-up. St. Louis Community College is implementing the project in 1998 under a contract with East-West Gateway; the first-year target is 200 placements. The College has established an alliance with community-based organizations to recruit job seekers from a targeted City-County area.

St. Louis Regional Jobs Initiative – This is an eight-year effort which includes the Center for Mobility to Work and is one of six similar regional efforts funded in part by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The aim of the initiative is to change how the regional labor market works by forging stronger links among economic development, workforce development, community interests, business, human services, and transportation systems. The Initiative, also administered by East-West Gateway, is governed by a 13-member Investors Group chaired by Missouri Treasurer Bob Holden. The chair of the East-West Gateway Board of Directors represents the region’s local governments and two State agencies. The Initiative includes three other innovative projects:

  • A business services job training and placement program for welfare recipients was designed cooperatively by the Missouri Department of Social Services, the Monsanto Corporation, and Adecco Personnel Services. Clerical skills training has been tailored to the needs of Adecco and Monsanto, and graduates of the program will be placed in positions with these firms. Van service is provided to and from the training center.

  • A Center for Health Careers serves the entry-level employment needs of the Sisters of St. Mary Health Care System. Individuals currently receiving welfare benefits who have an interest in the health care profession receive counseling and case management service, work readiness and skill training, and child care as they train for a job at one of the four St. Louis area hospitals. A weekly transportation stipend for transit or automobile travel is provided during and after training.

  • A cooperative effort with the Carpenters Union recruits and prepares young African Americans for construction trades. Individuals are trained and mentored by an African-American journeyman and placed with contractors through the Joint Area Construction Trades Council. Transportation stipends are provided during training.

Officials working with Transportation Redefined believe the project has demonstrated the key role that transportation planning can play in spurring economic opportunities and creating a better St. Louis. "Regional partnerships like these are springing up all over the country," says St. Louis Mayor Clarence Harmon. "And although many of these programs are just getting underway, we really don’t have a choice. We must and will do whatever it takes to connect new employees with available job opportunities."

In a May 1997 White House briefing on Welfare-to-Work, Mayor Harmon outlined three principles that have guided the St. Louis approach:

  • Partnership Building relationships among state and local governments and the private sector has supplied the critical infrastructure needed to get projects under way. Many initiatives have used a co-investment approach, coordinating investments in innovative ways that test partners’ collective ability to achieve better results through more efficient use of resources.

  • Customer-focused Process – This involves identifying all those served by a project, distinguishing their different needs and involving them purposefully in the planning process.

  • Sustainability In this sense, sustainability means more than the relationship between the built and natural environment. It is about moving families from a state of uncertainty about the future to a situation where they can rely on opportunities in the region and have the resources in place to take advantage of those opportunities.

Contact: Chester Hines, Special Assistant to the Mayor, City of St. Louis, (314) 622-4068, or Marilyn Robinson, Director of Human Services, St. Louis County, (314) 889-3485

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