Complete Text Of Public Testimony
I have been fighting for accessible public transportation for at least 13 years now. I know some of you here today have been fighting for transportation a lot longer than this. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting mighty tired of it. It seems we have to hang on tooth and nail for what little services we have.
But now we also have a federal law which can back us up – the Americans with Disability Act – which states “It shall be considered discrimination for a public entity that operates a fixed route system to fail to provide paratransit services to individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs. The Act goes on to state that these services must be sufficient to the level of public transportation provided to individuals without disabilities who use a fixed route system. Response time, it also says, should be as comparable as practicable to the level of public transportation provided to individuals without disabilities.
I depend on Metro Mobility. In my opinion, Metro Mobility does not come close to being comparable to the MTC fixed route system. Metro Mobility forces people with disabilities to plan our lives at least a day or two in advance. Many of us also pay higher fares than MTC riders. Now I know a few able-bodied people could benefit from a little forced planning in their lives; but that’s not the point. People with disabilities who depend on Metro Mobility don’t choose to be organized; we have organization forced on us.
Metro Mobility is the way I get around. Without it I wouldn’t be employed, I wouldn’t have gotten my degree, and more importantly, at least to the folks in government, I wouldn’t have been paying state and federal income taxes, social security taxes or sales and property taxes.
I’m an active, single 31 year old woman who averages between 40 and 55 MM trips a month. Cutting service would force me to change my lifestyle. I don’t want to do this. I don’t think I should have to. In fact, I want to become even busier. But I won’t be able to if MM service is reduced.
Raising Metro Mobility fares isn’t the answer. The ADA also says that comparable paratransit must be provided to individuals who cannot use fixed route bus service, to the extent that an undue financial burden is not imposed. I have a full time job and so can absorb some increase in fares; but not everyone can. And, I contend that until we are able to use fixed route service – until we have accessible mainline buses – Metro Mobility fares should be comparable to the fares MTC riders pay.
The point I’d like us all to reinforce to our legislators is that accessible transportation is not a social service. It’s our right.
Until we have other choices, like fixed route buses or light rail, a service like Metro Mobility is the only transportation options we have. And Metro Mobility is by no means perfect. It doesn’t begin to meet all my transportation needs or the needs of all people with disabilities in this community.
What other single, able-bodied woman my age has to tell her friends she has a 10:30 PM curfew? If I want to go to a concert, a baseball game, or go out with friends on the weekend, I don’t usually take Metro Mobility, even though I’d like to. I go with a friend by car, which requires that I use my manual wheelchair. That might not mean much to someone who isn’t disabled. But people with disabilities know what I mean. I lose a lot of my independence in a (continued from page 4)
manual wheelchair because I need to depend on someone else to push me around. I also don’t dance nearly as well.
In a perfect world, where other transportation options were available for people with disabilities, I would love going down to the bus stop and riding the Number 8 and Number 5 to work every day in the spring, summer and fall. I’d love being able to ride Metro Mobility only when the weather prevented me from getting to the bus stop.
But right now, I want the only thing we have. And that’s Metro Mobility. I don’t want the same level of service and I don’t want a reduced level of service. I want more service. The Americans with Disabilities Act says we deserve it. Now we need to convince the State of Minnesota that we do.
When this rally is over, I hope every one of you contact your state representatives and senators. We’ve been fighting a long time already. We can’t stop now.