No Ride, No Job
Jobs Go Unfilled For Lack of Transportation
It’s 5:41 on a Wednesday morning and Curtis Corbins is at the Ledbetter Dart station, gathering up his early morning riders for the day. They are on a journey to jobs. Today Mr. Corbins will head up a convoy consisting of a twelve passenger van, a family van, and a family car, down to Ennis, where jobs are going begging for lack of workers.
Ennis is only thirty-eight miles away, straddling I-45 south of Dallas. It’s home to a growing number of sprawling warehouses, run by the likes of Proctor and Gamble, Ace Hardware and Federal Express. For a person needing work who doesn’t have transportation, however, Ennis and all its job vacancies might as well be a thousand miles down the road.
Dallas has the highest poverty rate among Texas’ major cities. Its need for work, and Ennis’ need for workers, spurred by the growth of the Inland Port in southern Dallas County, have been apparent for some time.
Dart does not serve the areas where hundreds of workers are needed. Transportation plans were designed years ago, but there was no money to pay for them, Edna Pemberton, otherwise known as Miss P, told me.
Finally, about six months ago, Curtis Corbins jumped into the breach with a rented van, an idea, and a lot of energy. Now each day his startup Southern Dallas Logistics carries about thirty-five people down to Ennis to work at Sterilite, a plastic container manufacturer. The plant employs hundreds. Since August, Corbins has enabled 280 people to find jobs.
About a third of them are on probation. They welcome a chance for any employment, but especially work that pays close to $12 an hour with the possibility for a raise after ninety days.
Knowing that the jobs were there, Corbins developed a relationship with the Dallas Life Foundation, a homeless shelter, to help residents tap into employment. By all accounts, it is not easy. A resident at Dallas Life has to catch a train from downtown before four a.m. to make it to Corbins’ pickup point by five thirty a.m. Then it’s a ride of about an hour to the factory, followed by a 12 hour work shift, followed by another two hours of return travel by van and train at the end of the day. Passengers pay Corbins $10 per trip, which is deducted from their paycheck.
Still, for many simply finding a ride to work--that so many of us take for granted--has allowed them to literally transform their lives.
The hub for all this personal growth is a large unmarked room at Southwest Center mall. Ever afternoon, about a dozen people come in to fill out job applications for Curtis Corbins to pass on to Marathon Staffing, the employment agency which provides workers to Sterilite. They’re drawn by word of mouth, and by referrals by Dallas Police who have a substation at the mall and who spot likely job candidates on their rounds.
The goals for the whole grass roots project are modest. Keep it going, and perhaps begin to serve other facilities in Ennis with more vans and more drivers. For now, Corbins doesn’t even own the van he drives to Ennis ever day. He wants to buy one and has set up a Go Fund Me account, at GoFundMe.com/rides-to-work. With every ride to work, a life might be changed.