Council Chair calls for state lawmakers to pass transportation bill with real solution for Metro Mobility
Metropolitan Council Chair Nora Slawik convened state and local officials, community leaders, and advocates Monday to discuss the intersections between transportation, employment, and community challenges facing people who have disabilities in the Twin Cities region.
And the message was clear: support services for people who have disabilities are critical to their ability to live independently and prosper.
“None of us is guaranteed that we’re going to wake up tomorrow with the same ability we have today. We need to build flexibility into our infrastructure and system,” said Patty Thorsen, resident of Saint Paul, leader and advocate in the disability community. “There’s a human need for the service — it’s not just about money. What talents are we missing out on being shared and what needs are not being met by not investing in transit?”
The event, hosted by Rasmussen College in Lake Elmo, featured a discussion of issues critical to people who have disabilities that support greater long-term community prosperity. Prominent to the discussion was the critical role of Metro Mobility, the region’s ADA-mandated public transit service, in connecting people who have disabilities to jobs, medical appointments, social events, and the broader community.
“One of our main goals for these conversations is to hear directly from people whose voices are the most relevant — in this case, individuals who have disabilities,” said Chair Nora Slawik. “However you define ‘community prosperity,’ we want to make sure your voice is driving the policy discussion. And today we heard many things that validate the One Minnesota, collaborative approach to supporting people in our communities.
“Gov. Walz’s budget supports community prosperity by prioritizing people who have disabilities and providing appropriate funding to meet growing demand,” said Chair Slawik. “Service for people who have disabilities should not compete for funding with the regular bus system, and vice versa. We also need to grow our transit system overall to assure people who have disabilities can reach more places, and therefore greater opportunity.”
The governor has proposed moving Metro Mobility to its own separate budget line; currently, it is funded out of the same transit funding program used for regular route bus service. However, the growth of Metro Mobility means it will soon consume the entire transit budget.
Intersection between transportation, housing and access to opportunity
Participants in Monday’s conversation:
Participants noted how interconnected the issues are for people who have disabilities. For example, people who have disabilities are less likely to live in an owner-occupied home and experience a housing cost burden. Transportation to and from a job can be challenging in certain parts of the region, and this is one reason people with disabilities are less likely to be in the labor force or employed full-time.
“Demand for Metro Mobility service has grown between 5 and 8 percent annually for the past five years,” said Chair Slawik. “Transportation legislation must recognize the pressure Metro Mobility is applying to our regional transit system and bring forward a real solution, one that doesn’t force cuts to regional bus service and underfund service for riders with disabilities.”
Officials emphasized the importance of understanding what each community needs to succeed and investing in transportation and affordable housing, and supporting local economic development. “This conversation is about people’s lives,” said Commissioner Jennifer Ho of Minnesota Housing. “People need good housing options in community. It’s a really important time for members of the legislature to hear from people about these priorities.”
Fenley noted that providing supports for people to live independently is less expensive than any other way to support people. He also noted that support services merely even the playing field.
“Today, our goal is for everyone to be active members of their communities, and to live, work and learn in ways that are meaningful to them,” said Assistant Commissioner Stacy Twite of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. “Transportation is an essential component in a range of community resources needed so people with disabilities can make choices about their lives.”
Our regional commitment to Metro Mobility