Mr. Chairman, my name is Jessie Tehranchi and I live in Birmingham, Alabama. I’m glad to be here representing the Transportation Equity Network, a national coalition of grassroots organizations concerned with transit.
Fifteen years ago, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
The challenge of multiple sclerosis has taught me a lot.
I became aware of the importance of a quality public transportation system in 1995, when the bus system in Birmingham suddenly closed. This was an alarming time for people who used transit to get to jobs and other services. People on kidney dialysis could not get to clinics! Because of the outcry of the community, Greater Birmingham Ministries and the Alabama Kidney Foundation organized a rally in downtown Birmingham. Even with the storm warnings predicted, the rally was still planned. 80 people showed up – many of them in wheelchairs – in five inches of rain. On that day the Citizens for Transit Coalition was organized.
My eyes were opened from that experience; and since then my multiple sclerosis condition has progressed, and I no longer drive.
I use CLASTRAN, the paratransit service that serves the communities around Birmingham. Although this service is much needed and much used, I have been stood up by this service more than once in the past years. CLASTRAN – the drivers, dispatchers, and administration – tries very hard, but these gaps in service illustrate why greater investment in transit and paratransit are necessary.
I am a volunteer member of a number of organizations. This includes the Government Relations Committee of the Alabama Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and a member of the Alabama Disability Action Coalition. I am the Transportation Chair of the League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham. I am an active volunteer in Alabama Arise, a coalition working on issues that affect low-income persons, and I serve on the statewide task force for disability transportation issues.
In Alabama there are more than 900,000 transit disadvantaged persons. The state of Alabama has a population of some 4 million.
These organizations understand that transportation IS A NECESSITY.
People must have transportation to stay integrated into society: to work, to shop, for recreation, for medical services, to vote, to function independently.
Accessible transportation allows people with disabilities free movement in society.
As this Committee prepares for the reauthorization of TEA-21, I urge you to remember the importance of ensuring that transit users have a voice in the issues that affect transit service.
Transit users must be VOTING members of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Departments of Transportation, and Transit Agencies.
Congress should also pay close attention to the metropolitan and statewide planning process, and the metropolitan certification process. TEA-21 reauthorization is an opportunity to ensure transit user involvement, to clarify the importance of civil rights and environmental justice, and to more fully address the needs of transit dependent people.
Thank you very much for this opportunity to offer to you my thoughts for better transportation access to all our citizens.
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