Earlier in January, our CEO wrote a letter to City Council about the 2013 budget and the need to reexamine some of the ideas being proposed for people with disabilities and transit. One of the main concerns is a taxi voucher option for some Metro Mobility customers. Below is Patricia’s letter.  The Mayor’s Office Responded. See the Mayor’s response here.

To City Council Members

Re: 2013 Budget

I am writing as the CEO of The Independence Center located on South Tejon. One of the reasons this location is so perfect for us is that there is a bus stop on the corner. It is a symbol of the independence we work hard to help people with disabilities of all ages achieve. While we appreciate the Mayor’s proposal for limited expanded evening service, Colorado Springs really needs a better public transit system across the region. The Mayor’s vision of giving people with disabilities taxi vouchers could completely strain the City’s budget. With 60,000 people with disabilities (2000 Census), if even 20,000 came out of the woodwork to use these vouchers, this is an expensive way to go. Door to door service, while desirable by every resident in the city, is the most expensive option. How will we cap this service? People will only be allowed so many rides; only to certain places? Such an arrangement is charity of the worst sort. Able-bodied people saying when and where people with disabilities can live, shop, and work in the city. A robust public transit system provides independence not only for seniors and people with disabilities but all those individuals who choose not to have or drive a car. Public transit makes for a livelier and certainly a city with a much healthier air quality.

A separate but very related issue is having accessible, affordable housing located in those transit corridors. As more and more people see that they can get to work or shop or play without using their cars, this need will grow. The Mayor has proposed to cut planning fees by 50%.  Rather than cut those fees, why don’t we use them as incentives for developers to build housing in the transit corridors? Additionally, the City could expedite projects meeting the objective of accessible, affordable as well as  upscale housing in the transit corridors.

While I understand all of this cannot happen in 2013, let’s agree to work toward these six goals to improve our transit system:

  1. More frequent bus service during the rush hours (30 and 60 minute intervals don’t work for the employed)
  2. Expanded evening hours across the system
  3. Transit service to the Powers corridor so that people can take jobs there
  4. Transit to the bases  for job access (we can work with the military on security issues)
  5. Save those planning fees for housing development incentives in the transit corridors.
  6. Create a real transit plan that meets the needs of more than the 4000 individuals who currently ride the bus, according to the Mayor (October 31 joint Council/Mayor meeting)

I do not believe it is in the economic best interests of Colorado Springs to be a city where you must have a car to live here. That policy has poor health consequences and attacks the diversity of our region. The current policy suggests that anyone who needs transit must move downtown is the beginning of a ghetto right in the midst of our tourist area. A vibrant, economically healthy city must include public transit options.

The Independence Center and our transit leadership team look forward to working with the Council and the Mayor on this issue.  We aren’t going away.

Sincerely

Patricia Yeager, CEO

The Independence Center