Commentary by Joan Isaac
Recently, I was leaving United Way’s downtown offices at 38th and Meridian when a coworker ran by to catch his bus home. We were both headed downtown, so I offered him a ride. My grateful coworker said it usually takes him an hour and 15 minutes and three different buses to get home. It took me just 15 minutes.
My coworker is among the 78 percent of IndyGo riders who have no vehicle available, 65 percent who are employed, and 70 percent of whom earn less than $25,000 a year.
In Hamilton County, if you don’t own a car the barriers to transportation and self sufficiency are also considerable. Here, public transportation availability is limited to Monday through Saturday, and requires 24 hours advance notice to arrange.
What about people who live elsewhere, but want to come to our county to work? Along with other counties surrounding Marion, Hamilton County is where many job opportunities are developing in warehousing, large scale retail and health care. But getting to those jobs, while taking care of any other daily needs, is not easy.
The absence of a regional transit system connecting workers to jobs means that personal transportation is a must. But as one caseworker at a United Way agency reports, while buying a car may be possible, maintaining and making monthly payments can be a budget buster. She recalled the struggles of one client who returned his car to the dealer to avoid repossession, only to face daily frustrations with the bus system ranging from missed appointments and lost opportunities to concerns about how to take care of his 16-month old daughter.
Transportation’s essential role in self sufficiency is why United Way of Central Indiana’s board of directors recently adopted a resolution supporting legislation to authorize voter referendums for funding the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of mass transit.
Odds are, this is more personal than you may realize. You may know someone like my co-worker. Or, you may be an employer with jobs waiting to be filled. Either way, the lack of a viable public transit system is not just an inconvenience. It is a barrier to United Way’s very mission: helping people learn more, earn more and lead safe and healthy lives.
To use YOUR voice, sign the Central Indiana Regional Transit Authority’s petition or have your organization adopt a resolution in support of mass transit funding. Visit uwci.org and click on ABOUT, then Public policy. Thank you!