07 Mar 2010

In recent weeks, Central Indiana residents have been introduced to Indy Connect, a regional transportation initiative that has the potential to transform transportation in our community. It includes multiple modes of transportation – expanded roads, commuter and light rail, enhanced bus service, and bike and pedestrian walkways – to give us more ways to connect to our jobs, our loved ones, and our activities.

Decades of research – plus an unprecedented collaboration of businesses, government organizations, and not-for-profit groups – have produced a draft plan which lays out how we can integrate new and existing modes of transportation. The plan and the organization’s web site also feature a draft regional map that allow residents to pinpoint exactly how they will be affected, and ultimately benefit.

Too often, transportation concerns are a barrier for people with disabilities to find and maintain employment. Imagine finally securing a job, but concerns about how you are going to transport yourself to it every day overwhelm you in the process. I drive a van – with a lift – that is accessible for my wheelchair. If there’s a glitch with the lift and I have to take the van into the shop, I simply can’t get to work, and thus, contribute to our economy.

I also hear concerns about transportation from the students with whom I work at Ball State University. They are educated, well-trained, and eager to enter the workforce. Yet, they fear a lack of accessible transportation may prohibit them from finding a job when they graduate.

In Central Indiana, our elected and community leaders recognize the need to be inclusive of people with disabilities when addressing transportation needs. Ball State’s Jo Ann Gora, for example, has continued to support a state-of-the-art transportation system for students with disabilities. At the same time, people with disabilities, their loved ones and friends, must make their voices heard on why accessible transportation is so important.

They’ll get the opportunity to do so this year. Throughout 2010, Indy Connect will be holding public meetings so citizens can comment on the draft plan. To learn more about Indy Connect, and to sign up for periodic updates, please visit www.indyconnect.org.

In a community like ours where employment centers are dotted throughout the region, it’s imperative we connect everyone to available jobs. Indy Connect is a great first step.

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