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Testimony: Make room for transit in state budget

10:55 AM, May 18, 2013  |  Comments
Xai Kha/Wausau Daily Herald Supporters of continuing bus service in Weston announced Friday, Nov. 18, 2011, that they will try to collect $60,000 to keep public transit running in 2012.
Xai Kha/Wausau Daily Herald Supporters of continuing bus service in Weston announced Friday, Nov. 18, 2011, that they will try to collect $60,000 to keep public transit running in 2012.
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The following testimony was given by Jean Abreu, a representative of the local Everyone Has a Place Bus Task Force, to the Joint Finance Committee's state budget listening session in Wausau last month:

We are deeply concerned that budget cuts will result in the reduction or possible elimination of affordable public transportation in our community. In Wausau, we know the consequences of losing public transportation because bus service was eliminated in the southern metro area (Rothschild, Schofield and Weston) for all of 2012.

My group interviewed more than 50 people and organizations about the impact this loss had on their lives. The people we interviewed were the developmentally disabled, physically disabled, students, elderly and people without a car. The numerous organizations we talked with provided services for this population along with helping people who struggled with financial limitations.

The comments we heard were the same from everyone:

? The loss of para-transit (wheelchair access) was devastating.

? Their out-of-pocket costs went from $15 per month for a bus pass to an expense of $200 to $300 per month in taxi fare, and that covered only the cost of getting them to work!

? Tremendous stress trying to organize their own rides on a daily basis.

? Tremendous family stress as former bus riders tried to enlist friends and family to give them rides.

? Loss of independence - they no longer had access to the greater Wausau community.

? People moved out of the community due to loss of transportation.

? The ADRC and family group homes reported that clients were no longer able to move around the community independently, this was a HUGE change for the client's independence.

? The ADRC director reported that senior citizen clients expressed feeling abandoned and isolated when the bus no longer ran in their community.

? Faith In Action, a volunteer group that provides rides for qualified senior citizens reported a marked increase in calls for rides because seniors no longer had the independence of a bus network.

? Faith In Action also reported fielding many calls from people seeking transportation help. Most were turned away because they didn't qualify for services.

? Northern Valley Workshop employs handicapped individuals. Clients still made it to work because those rides were 'covered' by their care provider; they received private transportation to and from work but it's not a cost-effective plan.

? Northern Valley Workshop also noted this population lost their independence because they could not afford private transportation to take them anywhere in the community.

? One family group home's transportation costs for the two developmentally disabled men living in their home went from $30 per month to $750 per month in private transportation.

? Elderly folks were forced to walk to work. A 59-year-old man walked three miles daily to his McDonald's job; a 63-year-old woman had a three-hour walk home in January because she couldn't get a ride. She ended up losing the job because there was no reliable way to get to work.

? A local taxi company reported that the 'hardest thing to see' were the little old men because they couldn't afford the $20 taxi ride to get to the grocery store.

We are requesting that you:

? Keep public transit in the segregated transportation fund

? Restore the 10 percent cut made to public transit state operating assistance

Public transportation plays a crucial role in the common good of a larger community. Please consider public transportation carefully as you determine the upcoming budget.

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