County needs public transit

While it is often assumed a more rural county like Hancock would not benefit from mass transportation, I believe there are clear reasons for us to pursue this possibility.

Last year, the state legislature passed a law allowing Marion and surrounding counties to have their local governing bodies vote to explore mass transit in their county.

If passed in favor of moving ahead with mass transit planning, the finished plan would then go to a public referendum. If it passes that process, then it could move forward for further review by the county and town councils.

The financial support for this plan will be a local option income tax of anywhere from .1 percent to .25 percent. This will have to be passed by each local governing body.

In talking with those who are developing mass transit plans, I repeatedly hear that government leaders in Hancock County are not interested in participating in a mass transit program.

I do not know if this is true. I do know the few local officials I have talked with have voiced they do not believe mass transit will be welcomed by the people of Hancock County.

We already have an excellent public transportation system in Hancock Area Rural Transit operated by Hancock County Senior Services.

This program serves the people of Hancock County by providing transportation to medical appointments both in and out of the county.

Strictly within the county, transportation is provided for shopping and to allow riders to get to jobs and community activities as well as medical appointments. But this program has limits.

Out-of-county rides are now scheduled about six weeks out. And these rides are only for medical appointments. And hours of operation are limited to workday hours, Monday through Friday.

So who needs this service? Many choose to drive when there is no mass transit system. Some older and impaired drivers, with a mass transit system in place, might more readily accept the need to stop driving.

Those numerous individuals who have lost their licenses due to drunk or drugged driving are, instead, choosing to ride scooters on our roads. And then there is the category I fall into. The disabled.

I currently drive a modified van that has hand controls and a ramp for my mobility devices. I never believed I would need such equipment. But here I am.

Do I fear I will need to give up driving some day? Of course I do. I never expected to be where I am, so I have to recognize the changes that may come.

I know a number of individuals who are limited in what they can do because transportation is not available when they need it — especially in the evenings and on weekends.

They do not drive because they no longer have a license or because they have voluntarily stopped driving because of medical problems that make them concerned they may hurt others or themselves.

They could go to meet friends, work or enjoy the many activities available in Hancock or Marion counties if they had transportation.

Young people are heavily invested in participating in mass transportation. Young people often delay getting a license due to the expense of owning a vehicle and the desire to be environmentally responsible.

If we want talented young people to come and to stay in our county to work and shop in our businesses, we have to give them the amenities they want.

Let your municipal and county elected officials know what your opinion is on this subject.

Jim Matthews is a longtime resident of Greenfield. He can be reached at jem75@sbcglobal.net.