ALICE Awareness Week Header Image
Thanks for joining us for ALICE Awareness Week! We’re in the homestretch now. In case you missed it or joined us mid-week, just a reminder that on Monday we talked about Housing, Tuesday was Child Care and Wednesday was Education. Friday, we’ll spend some time pulling together how all of these issues are interrelated and take a quick peek at a few other issues that impact folks living below the ALICE threshold. Today, we turn our attention to Transportation.

Transportation helps us get to jobs, housing, child care, grocery stores, school, doctor’s appointments, as well as many other activities. Owning and maintaining a car is an essential for many and a cost most individuals and families living below the ALICE threshold struggle to afford. While limited public transportation options exist in the City of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, many folks walk, bike or use scooters to get where they need to go.
A small red car icon surrounded by icons representing other expenses in a family or individual budget.
As increasing housing costs push workers to live farther from their jobs, trends show city workers are moving out to rural areas that offer more affordable housing, which requires a greater travel distance for better employment opportunities. Long commute times have a negative impact on employee health, job retention, and productivity, not to mention time away from family and other obligations. Ride-share options such as Uber or Lyft may be convenient and helpful at getting you where you need to go a pinch, but regular usage can become expensive quickly. Read more …

Although public transportation is cheaper than vehicle ownership, it is not available everywhere, especially rural areas, so owning a car is essential for many of us to get where we need to go. Buying a new or high-quality used vehicle involves either having a certain amount of cash up front and/or taking out an auto loan from a bank or other lending institution. Such factors as credit score, borrowing history, and income level play a role in a lender’s decision whether or not to approve a loan. A low credit score, limited income, or inconsistent borrowing history can also drive up interest rates and insurance premiums, putting ownership of a reliable vehicle outside the reach of many.

If cost prohibits an individual or family living below the ALICE threshold from buying a new car, some may opt to buy a less expensive, possibly lower-quality used vehicle. Such a choice sacrifices reliability and safety, risks travel delays, and adds possible costs for added fuel, repairs, insurance, inspection, registration, and the potential for traffic or parking citations to an already limited budget. These sometimes necessary trade-offs make it difficult if not impossible for ALICE families to save for emergencies or to plan to have enough funds to cover all of their other monthly expenses. Read more . . .
Monthly Transportation Costs (Family of Four) and ALICE Worker Wage, 2017 Graph
Whether it’s out of necessity, health, or a commitment to reducing environmental impact, many folks opt to forgo motor vehicles and walk or bike places instead. Locally, the Shenandoah Valley Bike Coalition has made great strides to remove barriers to biking and encourage bicycling as a form of transportation in our area. Campaigns such as Bikes for Neighbors, Safe Routes for Everyone and Greenways have gone far in keeping safety and access for bikers and walkers in the forefront of the minds of local decision-makers.

The Valley Transportation Coalition is a coalition of local service providers and community members interested in monitoring and responding to transportation needs across all populations of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham community. The purpose of the coalition includes: staying informed of activities and programs powered by local agencies and groups who are meeting transportation needs of local community members, identifying gaps in transportation services and collaboratively developing solutions to overcome identified gaps, and seeking opportunities for partnerships and funding to address transportation needs. Interested in learning more or joining the coalition? Contact Ben Craig at Way to Go or Beth Bland at Valley Program for Aging Services.
  • Do you own a car? Is it paid off or are you making payments on an auto loan? What would you do if you were no longer able to keep up with loan payments or operating costs for your vehicle? 

  • How far is your home from your place of work? Go on. Map it. We’ll wait. . . . Is it walkable or bikeable? How often do you walk or bike to work instead of driving? Why or why not?

  • When was the last time you rode public transportation? Do you know where to go to find your closest bus stop? Which bus route(s) would you take to get from your home to work? To the grocery store? To your doctor’s office? And back home again? 
Thank a Transit Worker! October is Transit Appreciation Month. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation launched this new statewide initiative in response to COVID-19 and supports the changes that transit agencies across Virginia have made to keep passengers and bus operators and staff safe. Transit Appreciation Month highlights the innovative and persevering spirit of public transportation during this challenging time, transit agency options and initiatives, transit’s essential role in the community, safety measures, and employees who have gone above and beyond to provide a safe rider experience. 

Take the Virginia Safe Routes to School Program’s Fall 2020 Parent and Caregiver Survey. Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a program operated by the Virginia Department of Transportation to encourage and enable students in grades K-8 to safely walk and bicycle to school. The survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete and will help local SRTS coordinators and Virginia SRTS Program understand how the pandemic has influenced walking and bicycling and local needs to support safe walking and bicycling. Fill out the survey before Nov 15 and enter to win one of ten $25 cash cards!

Get outside! Dust off your handlebars, pump up your bike tires, roll up your pant legs (at least the right one) and go for a bike ride! Don’t have a bike? Take a walk around your neighborhood! How safe do you feel walking or biking? How walkable or bikeable is (or isn’t) your local area? What changes to the physical environment might make you feel safer?

Learn more: 
  • Way to Go empowers low-income workers in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County to improve their quality of life through access to reliable and affordable transportation. Way to Go accepts donations of used vehicles for use by a low-income individual or family. They also offer a WorkCars program to help qualifying clients access vehicle financing regardless of credit history. 

  • United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham’s Community Investments in the priority area of transportation. Take a look at the many different non-profit organizations in our local area working to address transportation needs in our community including Friendship Industries, Valley Program for Aging Services, The Arc, and Way to Go. 
Did you learn something? Have an insightful reflection? Were you inspired to take action? Feel free to forward this email on to someone you know who may be interested in reading. Folks can continue to Sign Up for more emails throughout the week.