Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Advocates Testify at the State Capitol to #KeepUsMoving

A chilly November day in Olympia
The proposed transportation budget affects us all—as shown by the hundreds of stakeholders who spent hours at the Washington State Capitol in Olympia last Thursday to testify before the Senate Transportation Committee.

Stakeholder testimony emphasized the need for legislators to partner with communities statewide to support transportation projects. While many people focused their testimony on roads, jobs, and economic development, a number of individuals spoke up for the critical role of accessible, public transportation, and better infrastructure for pedestrians to keep our state moving.

Accessible transportation advocates echoed many of the requests made at the statewide listening sessions this fall.

As a volunteer for the National MS Society, I explained the needs of people living with MS and encouraged the Senators to maintain the proposed funding level for the special needs transportation fund ($33 million). I also asked them to continue to fund mass transit and pedestrian infrastructure, which serve as key links for people with disabilities who can’t drive.

Activists spoke up for people with special needs and public transportation:

Peggy Quan, AARP:
Hundreds packed the hearing room for the meeting
“I want to encourage policy makers to think broadly to meet the needs of the aging and disabled population. Nationally, over 2 million people with disabilities never leave their homes. Of those individuals, 560,000 don’t leave home due to transportation difficulties. Complete streets and special needs funding should be priorities in this transportation package.”
Kathleen Dunn, Member of West Seattle Bike Connections:
“The heroes of transportation are those who use modes of transportation other than cars, either by choice or by necessity.”
Denise Colley, Washington Council of the Blind:
Legislators listen to public testimony
“We are grateful for inclusion of additional funding for the special needs program and while the proposal is significant, we think it still underinvests in programs that serve people with disabilities. Transit and other services allow people with disabilities to go where need they need to go by coordinating transportation, supporting paratransit services, and providing travel training to those who need it. Transportation is essential to the lives of blind people. We’re workers, students, caregivers, and members of the community. We depend very heavily on public transportation. We want to live as full a life as possible, just like everyone else.”
Tanna Shoyo, National Federation of the Blind:
“The problem with this bill—as it is currently—is that doesn’t include enough transportation funding. This is my ORCA card—it’s my car keys, because buses and trains are my car. If you don’t fund transit, you basically are repossessing my car. We need buses so people can get to work… I recently moved here from Lincoln, Nebraska and I saw the effect of transit cuts in that city—I had to take cabs and I couldn’t get anywhere. So, please include more public transportation [in the budget].”

Take action!
We need to keep letting our legislators know that special needs transportation funding matters! Below are some things you can do that will make a big difference:
  • Write your legislator now! It’s easy and takes just a few minutes. We’ve prepared an email that you can send to your representatives with just the click of a button. Take action here.
  • Meet with your legislator. Learn more by reading this issue brief, then set up a meeting to discuss this issue with your legislator. You can also provide your legislators with this leave-behind handout so they know what to do.
  • Sign up for the Washington Day of Activism in Olympia. The next legislative session is just around the corner! Help us bring the stories of people living with MS to our state's elected officials on February 5, 2014. Sign up here.
  • Tell your story. What obstacles do you face in accessing transportation? Is it bad sidewalks? Overcrowded buses? Or no transportation at all for people with disabilities? We need to know. Contact us, using the information below.

We are thankful for all the MS activists and other advocates working hard to ensure that the needs of people living with MS and other disabilities are a priority in the transportation package.

Questions? Contact Jim Freeburg at jim.freeburg@nmss.org or call 206-284-4254, ext 40237.

By Linnea Nasman, MS Advocacy Volunteer

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