Public Transit, One Key to Job Attraction and Retention

For Release: upon receipt

July 12, 2018



Rich Farr


Bob Philbin



Public Transit, One Key to Job Attraction and Retention


A leading employer in central PA needed workers at a new facility.

Together CAT and Chewy, a national web-based pet products distributor, worked

to provide public transportation for hundreds of employees

from the City of Harrisburg to its warehouse in suburban Mechanicsburg.



(Harrisburg) —  Last May retail giant Amazon notified the City of Detroit that it had fallen out of contention for Amazon’s new headquarters site because of “the lack of investment in the city’s regional public transit system”.  The problem in Motor City is there weren’t enough workers in the city to fill projected Amazon jobs, which means workers would have to travel from surrounding areas, a concern because the city didn’t have the public transit infrastructure Amazon said was necessary to move suburban and rural workers to fill those potential Amazon jobs in the city.  

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) says there are dozens of cities across the county similarly lacking regional transit networks.  The situation is reversed in Central Pennsylvania, particularly in Harrisburg, the state Capitol City.    

As of last month the national unemployment rate was 3.8%, versus 4.5% in the state, and about 6.6% in the City of Harrisburg, a municipality working toward financial stability under PA ACT 47 protection for third class cities facing financial crisis.  Also, about 40% of the city population is at or below poverty levels.  There is a stable workforce in Harrisburg; but many new jobs are coming to the rapidly developing mid-state suburban areas, often off traditional transit grids, and difficult to get to for potential employees without cars.    

Capital Area Transit (CAT) has been working for several years to build public-private partnerships to provide low cost transportation to move city and other workers to suburban jobs at large employers like Amazon, Chewy, and Hershey Entertainment and Resorts. Transit budgets are stressed across the nation, and CAT has one of the highest-paid workforces in the state, so the challenge is to design employer-linked public transit service without accelerating already increasing service costs.  

An effective solution is to share the costs of needed additional service with the larger employers recruiting workers to grow business.  Every day CAT successfully moves thousands of city residents to jobs outside the city; with thousands more transported from the suburbs to jobs in the city.  There are challenges of course.  Coordinating bus routes, schedules and arrival times to coincide with employer shift times needs to be negotiated and carefully planned. 

Employers also need to be flexible to accommodate late arrivals, at times unavoidable, given random traffic conditions. Guaranteed ridership, ticket purchases, subsidized ridership for new employees until they receive their first pay check, and bus advertising — all help establish the employer service and retain employees.  Typically, warehouses, shopping malls and industrial facilities were designed and built without consulting public transportation experts to accommodate current and future transit needs.

The result is often a difficult work site with no easy transportation access off existing bus routes.  As economic development transit grids continue to increase, the trend toward regionalization among mid-state transit agencies will accelerate, ultimately creating an integrated system connecting communities and valuable economic and social service destinations throughout the region.

CAT has assembled a team of experts in transit planning, operations, and customer service, available upon request, to review public transit needs to and from large employers within CAT’s service area of Dauphin and Cumberland counties and the City of Harrisburg.

The need for public transit, in terms of connecting workers to jobs, will continue to increase in the mid-state as both the population ages, and economic development opportunities continue to expand.



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