In 2022, the Transit Empowerment Fund (TEF) awarded Jail to Jobs with a Demonstration Project Grant to support their community mobility ‘SmartHub’ initiative in the Georgian Acres neighborhood. The TEF Board chose to fund this project for its innovative solutions to connect an isolated neighborhood to transit infrastructure. This project is also made sustainable through multiple partnerships including The University of Texas at Austin, City of Austin, CapMetro, and the National Science Foundation.
The SmartHub was launched in the Fall of 2022 with Jail to Jobs providing all operations to a transportation mobility hub to the Georgian Acres Neighborhood. Many residents in this area rely on public transportation, but it is not readily available or easy for them to access. The roadways in Georgian Acres are comprised primarily of short-distance loops and dead-ends. The make-up of the neighborhood provides barriers to allow city bus routes within the neighborhood, thus, resulting in a transit desert.
Jail to Jobs operates the SmartHub as a solution to soften the burden of transportation constraints in the area. Jail to Jobs provides a free shuttle ride for community members to utilize within the neighborhood radius. SmartHub shuttle vans are also equipped to transport passengers with wheelchairs and mobility scooters. The mobility hub is equipped with charging stations to support the launch of e-scooters and e-bikes throughout the neighborhood. Deeply discounted plans have been made available to e-scooter and e-bike patrons for qualifying users in the Georgian Acres neighborhood.
The target population is community members–residents and local businesses–in the Georgian Acres neighborhood who face mobility challenges navigating the neighborhood. Public transportation options in the area include the Lamar Transit Center and a bus route along Georgian Drive. While a resident may only live 1 mile from the Lamar Transit Center or Georgian Dr, unfortunately because of major roadway barriers, many are forced to walk under bridges, through construction zones, and across busy roads to access their public transportation option. Also, due to high crime rate, walking is often a last resort for many.
Between October 2022 and April 2023, 73 residents utilized SmartHub services, and 640 rides were provided through the SmartHub Shuttle Van. From their onboard survey, Jail to Jobs learned that most riders used the service to go to work or to go to the grocery store, pharmacy, and other shopping. Other common destination types were health care and recreational amenitites. Through Jail to Jobs’ operations of the SmartHub, community members have varying, safe and reliable transportation options available to help them with the first / last mile constraints they have traditionally faced.
To learn more about the SmartHub, visit Jail to Job’s website. This project has also been featured in the Austin Chronicle, click here to read the article!