Now, take a deep breath and close your eyes for just 10 seconds. I want you to get ready to put on someone else’s shoes (or maybe a pair you’ve already worn). After you’ve counted to 10 open your eyes and read the rest of the story.
You’re a single parent with one child. You work at a job that pays you $8.76 per hour. You cannot afford a car payment, insurance, rent, and child care. Choices have to be made.
Now, you’re an elderly gentleman who has recently lost his driver’s license and failed his re-examination. But you still volunteer three days a week at church and don’t want to let anyone down.
Then, as you transform back into yourself, maybe you are seeing someone who wants to go to the gym and to eat more healthy, but the lack of time to do these impossible tasks is always pressing on you as you run your kids to practice, or try to keep up with your heavy evening meeting schedule.
Whether it is a circumstance of life, a time issue, or just plain habit – we all think about transportation. If we sit down to think about it a little more deeply, we see that it defines much of our lives. How we get to work, care for our children, and care for ourselves depends on how we can reach that all important destination. We look for jobs close to where we live – or vice versa – we look for a place to live near our job, a good school, or other important destination. If we do not own a car, then a nearby bus stop, or living near enough to walk – the safety of this walk is secondary- is essential to success. After all, we have to get to work to pay rent and other bills.
I bring these stories forward as Imagine Kalamazoo input has told us again and again that sidewalks, lighting, bus routes, and walkability are the most requested changes to our city. These requests are not made primarily because someone desires to “leave their car at home”. It is because there is no car at home. Transportation choice can open doors for everyone. We have a solid road grid, but it isn’t moving everyone around. Nor does it support people making changes if they wanted to. We have enough barriers with the stories mentioned above; infrastructure should not be an additional problem.
So, as city staff we need to ask ourselves, “Do we keep investing in the same road projects, not prioritizing pedestrians concerns and public transit users? If we continue this how are we expecting a different result?”
Our focus for a new Complete Streets Policy will be making new decisions to create a new result. These decisions will be directed at creating an inclusive city that helps everyone get around and to be successful by offering opportunity with the fewest barriers. Creating a network of streets that are for all users regardless of age or ability is the highest priority. Safe, reliable, effective transportation choices can change people’s lives. Let’s work together on creating an inclusive city that is a destination for people to live, learn, work, and play.
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