- (Photo: Black Enterprise)
Growing cities carry many transit challenges, and one of the most compelling ones in recent decades has been the balancing act of jobs, housing, and transportation. The D.C. metro area is well acquainted with these struggles, and D.C. officials spoke of how to engineer such transit-oriented developments and how to anticipate future transportation issues at the recent Rail~Volution transportation conference.
These challenges caused me to pause and step back. What were these issues like 10, 20, and 30 years ago? The D.C. metropolitan area is a sprawling beast of a region, planned for decades and full of intricate nuances. Surely D.C. has dealt with similar problems as it's grown before. I turned to a July 1988 issue of Black Enterprise magazine for some answers about earlier versions of the jobs-housing balance in the region. The article revealed a telling statistic immediately — from 1984 to 1987, suburban job growth increased by 6% while the urban job growth within the District grew at a sluggish 2.2%.
How did D.C. address this staggering difference? The city launched its Regional Jobs Initiative program in 1983 and gave unemployed D.C. workers "tokens or subway-fare cards for up to 10 weeks if they find a job in the suburbs and cannot afford transportation costs." Five years after the program launched, around 7,000 D.C. workers were successfully working out in the suburbs, only a seventh of which used the full subsidized payment. The magazine credits the way our political leaders think in terms of the "regional" labor market rather than in "local" terms, and how that thinking has influenced how we approach transportation and development throughout the District and surrounding counties.
Read the 1988 issue of Black Enterprise and see how other cities like Atlanta and Philadelphia approached the challenge:
Read more pieces of Metro history here.