Lyft has launched its Jobs Access Program, Lyft Up, which provides transportation access to job seekers. (AP Photo)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
msayles@afro.com

For low-income communities, transportation is a significant barrier to employment.

It’s generally impossible to secure a job and keep it without having the means to get there

In Washington, D.C., the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent as of September 2022, according to the District of Columbia’s Department of Employment Services, a full percentage point higher than the national average of 3.7 percent. 

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the average work commute time is 28.3 minutes, but over 7 percent of the district’s residents need more than an hour to get to work. Further, only a quarter of district households own a car. 

Lyft, a national ride-hailing company, launched its Jobs Access Program in D.C. in 2019 to ensure transportation challenges would not prevent residents from becoming employed. 

“Our Jobs Access Program is really focused on helping people access employment opportunities through transportation to job interviews, job training and the first few weeks of work,” said Lisa Boyd, director of social impact at Lyft. 

Lyft’s mission is to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation, and the company capitalizes on that mission with its social impact program, Lyft Up, which Boyd helped to design. The rideshare company wants to ensure transportation is never a barrier to people accessing essential goods and services. 

Aside from the Jobs Access Program, Lyft Up’s programming also offers free and discounted ride-hailing, bike-sharing and scooter-sharing services to get COVID-19 vaccinations and groceries, as well as transportation to the polls for early voting and Election Day. 

Lyft partners with Goodwill, United Way and Indeed for this program to offer additional services that complement transportation to jobs. Goodwill offers resume-building services and employment training, while Indeed provides laptops and devices to assist people in their job search, as well as expungement services for people who have previously been incarcerated. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Boyd thinks the Jobs Access program has become increasingly critical to people seeking employment. Some faced public transportation shutdowns or were afraid to contract the virus in buses and trains, while others lost their jobs altogether.

“We know that, nationally, Black households are more than three times more likely to lack access to a vehicle, so there are challenges already built into our communities around lack of access to transportation and inability to access job opportunities, and that was only exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Boyd. “We feel that this program across the board is really important and has only been more important over the past couple of years.” 

The Jobs Access Program is currently available in over 40 cities across the country in addition to D.C., and millions of people have been given discounted and free rides across every Lyft Up program. 

There are no formal requirements to be eligible for the program, but Lyft’s nonprofit partners, like Goodwill, screen interested job seekers to ensure there is a sincere need for transportation services. 

Boyd acknowledged that transportation access may seem like a minor component of securing employment, but helping someone get to an interview or commute to work in their first few weeks of employment can impact a person’s livelihood. 
“The Lyft codes have helped tremendously. Otherwise, it would have taken me an extra 4 hours of commute every day,” said a Jobs Access Program user.  “I wouldn’t have been able to afford it to even make it to school or work without them. Especially on the cold days or rainy days, the luxury of being able to just call Lyft was an amazing option to have.”

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