As a caretaker for individuals with developmental disabilities and the executive director of All Individuals First, I see firsthand how public transit not only improves the quality of life, but also creates opportunities for empowerment, independence and joy.
Public transit for people with no other means of transportation gives them the same options as everyone—shopping, volunteering, going to the post office, going to work, or taking a fun outing – without relying on someone else to get them there.
All Individuals First works with adults with developmental disabilities. We seek to broaden their access to the world, immerse them in their community and grow their opportunities for experiences and friendship. Our clients spend 50 percent of their day in-house, socializing and making arts and crafts. They spend the other 50 percent out in the community, volunteering, playing bingo, going shopping, taking field trips, running errands and exploring Los Alamos.
More than 80 percent of my clients would not be able to enjoy our programs—or get out in the community at all—without public transit. Our organization is unable to provide transportation for those who are wheelchair-bound; we rely upon public transit to get to and from our daily activities.
By utilizing public transit, my clients have peace of mind that they can have a safe and reliable way to get around, and they can have the same quality of life as anyone in Los Alamos. Trips on public transit also afford my clients great opportunities to meet people and create friendships while expanding their opportunities for meaningful interactions with others.
Public transit also is important for people without disabilities, me included. It allows me to save money on gas and vehicle wear and tear, while still getting where I need to go. Whatever your background, I urge everyone to take a look at what public transit means for all the members in their communities.
It can be easy to overlook the importance of reliable, well-maintained public transit, when it does not directly impact your daily life. However, in overlooking the importance of this service, people are overlooking the importance of independence and life experiences for those who rely on transit.
For my clients and all with disabilities across New Mexico, public transit is essential to their daily activities. We need increased funding to ensure reliable operations and expansion. I urge all lawmakers to assess the transit needs of their respective communities, and actively seek solutions to provide state level funding to solidify the future of safe and reliable transit in communities across the state.
Remember, funding for public transit is not a political issue. It is an issue of enriching and enabling the daily lives of many across the state. For many, public transit is not simply one of many options for transportation; it is the only option.