A guest blog by TRU Board Member Wendy Ernzen
My story is a little different from most transit stories. It doesn’t begin with me riding a bus or experiencing transit in another city. Instead, it begins with the birth of a baby girl.
On October 28, 2002, our first daughter Nicola was born. She had ten fingers and ten toes, and we were so excited to bring her home.
However, we soon recognized that she was an unusual baby – she was restless, often upset, and missed some milestones. After two, she was labeled as developmentally delayed. By six, she was diagnosed with autism.
We weren’t sure what it meant at first, but over the years, we realized there might be certain things she could not master. Now 17, we are nearly certain driving will be one of those.
If we were living in another city, I could teach her to use public transit to create independence. Unfortunately, Michigan has an underfunded transit system with limited regional connections, and as a parent, this worries me.
How will she get to school or work? How will she visit family and friends if she’s lucky enough to live on her own? How will she get around when we, her parents, are no longer living?
We are not alone – 1 in 58 kids has autism and thousands more have other disabilities that prevent driving. There’s also many Michigan adults with disabilities whose parents are aging and soon can no longer help. Perhaps some can rely on family members or a future with self-driving cars, but what will the rest do?
The answer is simple: public transit. Transit that connects our four counties rather than stopping at borders. Transit that gets people to the airport, hospitals, universities, and employment. Transit that is predictable, reliable, and timely so an autistic girl can use it on her own.
For twenty years, TRU has been there to make sure that all voices, including Nicola’s, are included in the transit conversation – including our children who can’t drive, our retirees who want to age in place, our neighbors who can’t afford a car, and our friends who just want independence from car ownership.
TRU is fighting for transit solutions that get people where they need to go no matter where they live, what their financial needs are, or their physical abilities.
Invest in TRU, invest in transit, and invest in an inclusive and accessible future for all of us in Southeastern Michigan.