Public Transit Provides Vital Services for Those with Disabilities
By Mary McGinnis, Counselor & Poet
Having been blind from birth, public transit is a vital part of my daily life. I’ve lived in Santa Fe since 1982, and have been a regular transit rider since paratransit services began in the early 1990s.
Due to my blindness, I have some difficulty with spatial concepts and did not start to receive mobility training until the age of 18. Prior to the availability of transit, I relied on my partner to get to and from work. This severely limited my freedom and my independence.
Because of this, I was one of the initial advocates for both a bus system and paratransit system in Santa Fe. Since the successful accomplishment of our goals, I have been a rider on Santa Fe Trails and Santa Fe Ride on almost a daily basis. For me and others like me, transit is not simply another service; it is the service that affords us basic freedoms and the ability to get where we want or need to go without having to rely heavily upon friends and family members—most of whom have their own busy schedules.
Public transit allows me the opportunity to continue my livelihood. Although I am partially retired, I still have a small private counseling practice and use transit to get to my office for appointments. I use transit for grocery shopping, doctor appointments and recreational activities, as well as getting to and from continuing education classes. The door-to-door service, which we advocated for, has been very helpful. The inclusion of on-demand service is also helpful in allowing me to live my daily life. Having the service on weekends enables me to get to poetry readings, plays, concerts, and other activities I enjoy.
Being able to get to where I need to go is very important to me and others with disabilities. However, access to affordable public transit is not only a need for people with disabilities. It also benefits low-income residents and those with a desire to preserve our environment by reducing their carbon footprint.
Transit improves the life of many, making access to education, events, and jobs affordable for students, seniors and more. Transit makes a positive difference for all in our community, and as a member of the Transit Advisory Board for the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to see firsthand the planning to increase accessible transportation for all.
Our public transit system—like many systems across the state—is in need of improvements. These improvements cannot be made without additional funding. Currently, the state of New Mexico does not provide general fund money for transit services. As we approach the 2019 Legislative Session, I call upon our elected officials to stand up for those with a need for public transit—the elderly, those with disabilities, and those with financial need—as well as those with a desire to rely more heavily upon transit.