Commentary: Ride a mile in her life, understand her daily struggles

Editor’s note: Valentina “Val” Barnes sent this letter to Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL – Minneapolis), who chairs the Senate Transportation and Finance Committee. It is reprinted with her permission.

Dear Senator Dibble:

This is a letter of urgency. I need you to “ride a mile in my life!” My name is Val Barnes. I am a 61-year old disabled African-American woman. I reside in downtown Minneapolis and I am a constituent of yours. Actually, you have been in my home during your election campaign. Today, I need your help.

Recently, my transportation services with Metro Mobility was suspended for 30 days and has caused me tremendous hardships. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident.

Many are impacted by this issue and though I cannot identify the exact number.

I believe this issue should be investigated.

I believe that the state should examine Metro Mobility by conducting an assessment of usage and identifying the barriers and other unfair practices. I am appealing to you to work with me and other people with disabilities to address this and other Metro Mobility transportation issues.

Additionally, I would like to ask you as chair of the State Senate Transportation and Finance Committee to join me and others for a week’s experience using Metro Mobility transportation so you can know and understand and experience only a glimpse of what people experience when using Metro Mobility. Some people take transportation for granted yet for many transportation is a luxury.

Some of us are unable to drive, unable to go to the grocery store, unable to attend church to worship and unable to go to the gym, dining, and socialize from day to day without some form of transportation assistance. Transportation is a powerful lifeline! I believe the disabled community appreciate and value transportation assistance and has the right to expect “Mobile Dignity” from transportation providers.

I would think the taxpayers would expect nothing less.

Senator Dibble, I could tell you stories, some I’ve heard, some of my own and I am sure you know some yourself. These are problems.

Just to be clear this is not a “bus driver problem” or a “call center problem.” This is about Metro Mobility’s questionable policies, procedures and their day-today operations. My own personal opinion about the bus drivers and call center employees is one word, AWESOME. I wish my PCAs were similar.

Again, it’s crucial for you to see and experience Metro Mobility for yourself using the Metro Mobility Bus Service for at least a week.

I believe all elected official especially those serving on the influential Transportation Committee should use and experience Metro Mobility throughout their term.

I of course will await your response. Thank you.

–Valentina Barnes, Minneapolis