Commentary: Wise communities invest in themselves, providing the public resources necessary to allow residents to live prosperous, healthy lives. Regional transit is one of those key investments in a successful future.
The ability to move freely and safely through our community is a personal freedom supported by public investment. For the great majority of people, this investment is realized through the building and maintenance of public streets and roads, the enactment and enforcement of basic laws to govern safe traffic flow, and in efficient planning for future growth and development.
For a significant number of our residents, the freedom to move from place to place is made possible by public transit. The South Central Regional Transit District (SCRTD) has been charged with providing a safe and reliable way for residents to get to work, to jobs, to school, and to area businesses.
The increased ability to participate in social and economic life greatly improves the lives of those who utilize public transit. This increase in personal self-sufficiency is in itself important, representing one of the most common reasons we engage in public investment.
Less obvious, perhaps, are the benefits a good public transit system provides for the whole community, especially in contributing to the economic success of our county and region.
When patients show up for their appointments, medical facilities are more efficient and more profitable. When mothers and fathers get to work regularly and on time, even when the car is broken down, their family income increases and they can afford more goods and services. When our young people have reliable access to educational opportunities, they become part of a better-prepared workforce and we can attract employers with higher paying jobs.
In fact, the existence of a well-developed transit system is a major attraction for many industries considering relocation to our area.
The SCRTD, which started regular service in February, is already making the connections essential for county residents. There are bus stops at every La Clinica de la Familia location in the county, and service from the southern and eastern parts of the county to New Mexico State University and Doña Ana Community College. Stops are being placed near major work sites, connecting workers with job opportunities and building workforce stability throughout our region.
Ultimately, of course, the SCRTD will be much more than a bus system. Projected services include ride share and dedicated van service to Santa Teresa and other key work sites along the border. There will be coordinated Dial-A-Ride type transport for elderly and disabled residents. There will be shared access to regional festivals and events, and the opportunity to scale public transport opportunities to local interests and need.
The benefits of this kind of comprehensive service, both to individual families and to our region, are clear. The data also indicate that there is a real dollars and cents impact as well, with studies showing a $3 to $4 economic return generated for each $1 invested in public transportation.
Even in its earliest stages, public transit is bringing money into our area. To date the SCRTD has secured over $500,000 in grants to support its development and operations, and the District expects to secure $662,000 in grant funding next year. The simple existence of an organized regional transit district makes us eligible for millions of dollars in federal funding, money that would otherwise be unavailable for our region.
We know that our success depends on a willingness to invest in our people and region. Through a commitment to public transit, we increase not only the freedom and opportunity of individual residents, but build toward a more prosperous and dynamic community for us all.