‘You learn to adjust and make the best out of a tough circumstance’

A NJ Transit bus fights through traffic in Newark. Photo by Adam Moss (Flickr).

Amanda Freeman is a single mother, who works in Newark, New Jersey.

This profile is part of the series, “The New Jersey 37,” which focuses on residents making up the 37 percent of households in state that cannot afford basic needs such as health care, housing, food, child care, and transportation.

Cheikh N’Diaye: Does your reliance on public transportation affect you applying to jobs that are farther than your house? Would having a car change that?

Amanda Freeman: Yes, it does have a significant impact. I know that I can only apply to a job that is close to me. If I were to accept a job that is very far from Newark, I am not sure I could consistently make it on time to that job. That would be setting me up for failure because there are some days where public transportation is unreliable and can completely fail you. Your company would not allow that excuse and then you are fired because of the tardiness. Because of this, I would have to pass up a job that is father away but pays more compared to a job that is closer to Newark but pays less money. It is a lifestyle choice that can be a hindrance but eventually you learn to adjust and make the best out of a tough circumstance.

CND: Do you believe there is a correlation between high poverty rates and poor public transportation?

AF: Yes, I really do believe there is a correlation between the two. Many people like me need public transportation to get back and forth from our jobs to our homes. Having poor bus and train systems can cause people to be late to their jobs and as I said earlier, they are fired. I have had to wake up hours early before the time I start work to make sure that I do not get screw by a late bus or a late train.

CND: How much do you spend on a daily basis on public transportation?

AF: I buy a monthly bus pass from NJ transit, which usually varies from around $100 to $120. If I have to take the train, I would just buy a ticket instead of buying a pass because I use it less frequently then the buses.

CND: Do you think it is more expensive to have a car or use public transportation for a whole year? I think it is more expensive to have a car.

AF: Having a car is a luxury but it is more expensive because of the amount of money you have to invest toward your car. I would have to pay for insurance, potential repairs, gas and other miscellaneous fees, which add up. Using public transportation is cheaper in my opinion but it is not as reliable.

CND: Do you currently have a job as of now?

AF: Yes, I currently have my own business where I assist people who want to start their own business. I help my clients with planning events, coordinating their potential locations for where they want their events to take place, resumes, finances, etc. There is no set salary but it depends on the amount of clients I have. In addition, I also have a part-time job in order to help my daughter get through college

CND: Does your reliance on public transportation affect other aspects of your life financially?

AF: I do not believe that it does because that money would be going toward my car if I were not using public transportation. I have to worry about paying my own bills and putting my daughter through her last year of college. It may be a blessing that I do not have a car at this moment right now. In reality, would I love to be able to use a car when I want? Yes. However, I realize that it is probably cheaper and it may allow me to afford other necessities.

CND: What are ways we can improve public transportation to make it more efficient?

AF: I think having less stops could make the buses in particular run smoother. In Newark, so many bus stops are within a mile radius from each other. It feels like you are wasting time because the stops prevent the bus from going a faster pace. In addition, there also can be an improvement made to the amount of buses within Newark overall. Sometimes, I have the feeling that there are more buses running north that going south toward the downtown area. Newark is a city where the citizens rely heavily on public transportation to get to one place to another. Without it, the city from an economic standpoint would decline because people need it to go to work and the city relies on it to generate revenue.