Community Columns

Brooks: Today is time to speak up for better transportation

The Stanislaus Council of Governments policy board meets tonight to address some long-neglected transportation issues.

Members have the responsibility of accepting the just-completed Stanislaus County Transit Needs Assessment, which makes some major recommendations about what can be done to enable seniors and disabled persons to get to where they need to go.

In the past, StanCOG members have often decided there were no "unmet" transit needs and used money designated for that purpose on projects like sidewalks, bike lanes and streets, all necessary improvements.

But senior transportation needs haven't been as well identified and haven't had priority on StanCOG lists.

The situation is changing, though, because concerned seniors have become active and effective. The county Commission on Aging, under presidents Jill Klajik and Mickey Peabody; supportive supervisors Dick Monteith and Jeff Grover; GAP (Golden Agers for Progress) members under Jenny Kenoyer and a variety of interested organizations have led the way. The result is the Stanislaus County Transit Needs Assessment.

Questionnaires about mobility needs went to 375 agencies, 450 churches and temples, just under 4,000 consumers and attendees at a variety of community meetings.

The study, now complete, was approved last week by the Board of Supervisors.

If the StanCOG board approves and diligently implements study recommendations, seniors and disabled persons should eventually have some responsive and reliable transportation services. This will help them remain in their homes, living independently, for as long as possible.

Some of the study's major findings:

Numerous transportation needs for seniors and disabled persons in the county are not being met.

StanCOG should improve its access to and use of federal and state transit funds.

StanCOG should update its Unmet Transit Needs process so that senior and disabled persons' needs are considered.

An advisory committee to StanCOG should be established to address needs identified by the study.

StanCOG should develop a volunteer drivers program.

Contact your representatives on the StanCOG board. If you live miles from an established transportation route, tell them what it's like to have to wait in heat and rain long periods for a bus or van. What it's like to have to rely on a cane for support as you wait. How it's nearly impossible using public transportation to get to different appointments on a given morning, and what it's like to lug sacks of groceries back home.

Remind them of the difficulty of obtaining medical appointments and then the critical need for somehow getting to those appointments.

Remind representatives also that studies indicate many people just give up when they can no longer be as independent as they would like. They eventually become so dependent, they can no longer can remain at home. That is a heartbreaking and expensive consequence neither they nor society desire.

More available and more responsive transportation is vital to this county.

Brooks is a member of the Stanislaus County Commission on Aging and a community columnist. Write her at columns@modbee.com.

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