MEDIA RELEASE: Low-income North Carolinians' needs must be at forefront of public transit plans

Plans should evaluate where low-income individuals – transit’s most reliable customers – live and work

RALEIGH (December 12, 2012) – The success of new and expanded transit in North Carolina will be largely dependent on how well the transit system retains and reaches its most reliable customers – low-income North Carolinians – according to a new report.

Policymakers across North Carolina are moving forward with plans to expand public-transit options, including additional bus services and the development of commuter and light rail, but such plans must take into account where low-income North Carolinians live and work in order to succeed and provide for residents, said a new report from the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center. Investing in public transportation helps connect North Carolinians to education, employment, and social networks that can improve their economic standing, but it’s only helpful if transit connects where individuals live to where opportunities are available.

North Carolina’s public transportation system will be more successful if it’s easily accessible by those who regularly use and depend on it, particularly low-income North Carolinians, the report added. Sixty-seven percent of the state’s workers commuting by public transit had annual incomes below $25,000 last year, the report said, and the share of low-income workers commuting by transit increased by nearly 11 percent from 2010 to 2011.

It is increasingly important to ensure that transit plans pay attention to where low-income residents live and work, given that low-income residents are depending more and more on public transit, and housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable in the urban cores, where public transit is primarily located and jobs are more plentiful. Renters are disproportionately lower-income, the report said, and are more likely to use public transit than the average North Carolinian. Although renters comprised 3 out of 10 working households in North Carolina in 2011, 7 out of 10 workers commuting by transit were renters.

The increasing spatial mismatch between public transit, affordable housing, and job growth highlights the need for coordinating transit planning with other policy areas before any new transit is built. The success of expanded transit will depend largely on how well the system retains and reaches low-income North Carolinians, the report said.

“This requires developing transit plans with an eye to where low-income people live and where the opportunities for economic and social participation exist,” said Tazra Mitchell, a fellow with the Budget & Tax Center and author of the report. “Such planning will ensure that public transit investments deliver an economic benefit not just to families but to the broader economy by ensuring connections to jobs and reducing household costs.”

The full report can be seen at this link.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tazra Mitchell, BTC Fellow,, 919.861.1451; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications,, 503.551.3615 (cell).