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Letter: Public transportation is a lifeline

Eden Prairie News - 9/10/2017

Most American adults the thought of not having access to a car or not having the ability to drive is nearly unconscionable, but for Americans who are elderly or disabled, this is a concept they have to learn to adapt to on a daily basis.

So assuming one doesn't have access to a car or simply doesn't have the ability to drive, how does one adapt to perform daily functions such such as going to work, getting to medical appointments or maintaining a social life?

The easiest way to adapt is utilizing public transportation. Every day, city buses and trains provide affordable, reliable transportation services to thousands of Minnesotans who need to get to work; right here in Carver County, Southwest transit provides transportation services through their stations in Chanhassen, Chaska and Carver.

For people with disabilities, however, who face the concept of being stranded, unemployed and even hungry, public transportation is a lifeline.

Historically, public transportation has come a long ways in providing services toward those with disabilities. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provided protection to people with disabilities from discrimination, particularly Section 504, which banned any entity receiving federal funding from using discriminatory practices.

The re-authorization of the American with Disabilities Act requires accessibility in public transportation by intercity and commuter rail and for public transportation other than by aircraft.

Despite the significant protections guaranteed through these landmark legislation, accessibility to public transportation's continues to be a hindrance for those with disabilities. Despite maintaining an effective transportation system being one of two mandated priorities in the state Constitution, the other being education, this past year the Minnesota House of Representatives passed legislation that cuts $120 million from regional transit and completely eliminates general fund contributions by 2021.

Lawmakers also divested state funding from both the green and blue light rail lines, which provide effective transportation for those residing and working in the heart of the metro area.

As a nation, public transportation is at the heart of economic and workforce development, particularly for programs such as the welfare-to-work program. According to studies performed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 94 percent of those utilizing welfare programs do not own a car and rely on public transportation to get to and from work every day and according to the center for transportation excellence those living off below average wages also take advantage of the affordability of public transportation options.

Public transportation is a catalyst for promoting economic development, improving livability in our communities and most of all Metro Transit has allowed for individuals with disabilities to be self-sufficient.

Not only are the cuts to a public transportation system a gigantic disservice to the disability community, they also go against our core principals as a party because, according to Sen. Dave Osmek, that's what the Republican Party is about - hard work and self-sufficiency - but that statement, in fact, runs contrary to his aversion and condemnation of our public transit system.

So why does public transportation matter? Think about where we would be without isolated, anti- less social, less healthy and poor with selective application of our values as a country, which is the very opposite direction of where we as communities and as a nation should be heading.

Noah McCourt

Eden Prairie


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