Fresh out of college, she spent more than four hours a day and $5.50 round trip on a patchwork commute, of transfers and lots ofwaiting.
She walked three blocks from her AG亚洲国际游戏home to pick up the Lansing 355 Pace bus, which took her to the South Shore Line's Hegewisch Station, a 25- to 30-minute trip including her walk. Then she boarded the CTA No. 30 bus and rode it 15 to 20 minutes to 106th Street and Ewing Avenue, where she boarded the CTA X26 express bus for a one-hour trip downtown, where she got off the bus and walked four blocks to her office.
She says it often took her more than two hours to get to the bank's Loop offices.
All for a job as an unpaid intern.
A year after the internship, she landed her current job—a paying position with benefits as a portfolio management associate at the nonprofit community development financial institution. She began taking the South Shore Line train downtown and gets assistance from her employer to offset a $14 round trip. She bought a car to get to the train station, but sometimes she has to rely solely on public transit.
Like many others, her transportation challenges were eased by the pandemic. She is working from AG亚洲国际游戏home and can be on the job just by walking into her AG亚洲国际游戏home office and signing on to a computer.
But she expects her Loop office to reopen in mid-June. Her commuting challenges will return then, possibly with a vengeance.
"With the pandemic on everyone's mind," she says, "I have the option of driving to work every morning, which can take less than an hour. But then I have the price of parking. The cheapest I can find is $20 a day."
Her round-trip commute that will resume once the office reopens is a lot better than the four-hour grinds she endured as an intern. But there are complications
"I don't know if that is safe. And with COVID, the trains are operating on a modified schedule. So, let's say I'm at the office one day and I miss the last train at 5:30. The next train is at 9 p.m. Thankfully, the CTA (bus) can get you to the Hegewisch station, but that's less safe for me, and I'm going to be on the CTA, which has more riders and more chances of coming into contact with people and less social distancing."
Falcon was not part of the mismatch study sponsored by the MPC and Equiticity, an advocacy group for racial equity. But the comments of the Chicagoans interviewed by Kate Lowe, an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Chelsie Coren, a graduate student there, had a familiar ring.
In contrast to many transportation studies, Lowe and Coren sought feedback from users of the city's transit system. They conducted a series of focus groups of job coaches and job seekers at employment centers on the South and West sides.
"Results demonstrate that disadvantaged workers experience a complex web of transportation and intersecting barriers that make it difficult to travel and retain employment," the report says. "In fact, almost three-quarters of (those interviewed) indicated that transportation was a barrier to getting or keeping a job."
The racism and ethnic tensions that simmer beneath almost every issue in Chicago also surfaced in the focus group study. And the suggestion that there is a disconnect between major employment centers and economically disconnected areas clustered on the South Side and southern suburbs mirrors studies done by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
An interactive online job and transportation map built by Nebiyou Tilahun, an associate professor of urban policy and planning at UIC, vividly displays the disparities. Although it was not part of the MPC study, Tilahun says his map, which relies on updated U.S. Census Bureau jobs data, allows users to determine how many jobs they can get to within a given amount of time using various modes of transportation.
"You can see (the mismatch) in the map because those jobs are part of the computation. If you chose to look at 30 minutes by transit," Tilahun says, "the map shows you how many of the region's jobs you can get to on public transit within a half-hour's travel time."