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Cruise Control


A few years back, I interviewed a woman who had a degenerative eye disease that took her vision slowly and awkwardly. Several accidents ensured her vision constantly changed—partially blind in her right eye, mostly blind in her left eye, and then almost completely blind in both.

As her vision changed, the woman willed herself to relearn the basics; cooking was always an interesting process, she told me, referring to an incident during which she mistook peas for blueberries while making muffins. But from the beginning, the hardest part about losing her vision was giving up her license to drive.

Transportation, she said, was a facet of mobility, and mobility was everything. When she lost her ability to get out of the house easily, she also lost her independence. Before finding transportation assistance through a local organization, she grew isolated and depressed.

I think of her every time I ride the bus, and I thought of her many times as we planned and edited this issue’s 10 Transportation Issues in the Next 10 Years.

We so often forget transportation is tightly bound to our connection with the outside world. We forget the greater significance: When there is a lack of transportation options, when public transit becomes less affordable, when para-transit programs are cut, a whole segment of the population looses its mechanism for active living, socializing and thriving.

Now more than ever, our community’s transportation and mobility needs—access, affordability and awareness—must be top of mind.

As always, it’s because of the Baby Boomers (I say this jokingly…kinda). In less than 10 years, the population of people in this country who need mobility assistance will skyrocket. It’s predicted that 20 percent of the Boulder County population will be older than 65 by 2020. Our fast-aging Boomer population—cheekily known as the Silver Tsunami—will soon become a major burden on our entire bureaucratic infrastructure. From Social Security to Medicare to human services to ways we still don’t know, our financial systems, governmental programs, medical technology, housing and care-giving support will soon be tested. And transportation will be a major part of that, especially if we don’t plan for it now.

I was recently invited to take a tour of the new Special Transit building. While Mary Cobb, Special Transit’s communication director, had warned me that the “older adult population is the fastest growing population group in Boulder County and their projected mobility needs are one of the hot topics in transportation planning in the county,” I was happily surprised at how the regional nonprofit has examined the exact problem for years. And knowing the future demand, they’ve acted accordingly. Their new facility is magnificent—a result of strategic fundraising and adept planning—set atop 6.3 acres of land east of Boulder. There are empty desks throughout, waiting for the latent staff that will be required as the need for their services increases.

Special Transit’s philosophy, Cobb tells me as we stare at the building’s view of the Front Range, is about “mobility management.” It’s about creating a web of support for anyone who needs mobility help; from door-to-door rides to helping residents find public transit.

“And when FasTracks comes on line here, we will help our riders access those options,” said executive director Lenna Kottke. It’s a holistic and proactive approach that leaves no one in the dust.


email no info send march17th/09

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