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Health, well-being and public transit

Health, well-being and public transit

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“Everyone deserves a fair and unprejudiced opportunity to enjoy health and well-being.” I’m pretty sure that most readers agree with this statement. I’m more certain that few of us think about how ‘health and well-being’ are impacted by public transportation. A few years ago, Dace West suggested that, “[public] transit helps increase physical activity, lowers levels of disease related to environmental factors, and results in greater pedestrian and vehicular safety.” These benefits are consistent with what many Missoulians believe, I think. Missoula is a place where citizens place high value on the protection and enhancement of personal well-being, community and the environment. In other words, we appreciate where we live and the ways in which our community encourages an optimistic quality of life.

In this upcoming election, Missoulians have many choices to make. Among them is our community’s commitment to the health and well-being of ourselves, friends, family and fellow Missoulians. Our choice to support Mountain Line’s proposed mill levy will expand Zero Fare bus service into Saturday night, provide later service on weekdays, offer bus service on Sunday, and expand curb-to-curb services for seniors and individuals who live with disabilities. For me, it’s an easy choice: vote FOR our bus and Missoula’s future!

In my day-to-day work, I have spent years figuring out ways to help people with disabilities and their families participate more fully in their communities. That experience, and common sense, has taught me that each of us feels greater life satisfaction (and well-being) when we interact with others to share our interests, hobbies, or religious observances. We are even happier (and healthier) when we have independent access to the services and supports we need. Community participation, and our resulting happiness, is often dependent on our ability to get to and from where we need to go—the store, the health clinic, the dog park, a restaurant, the ball park, a place of worship, a friend’s house…where ever. Do you see where I’m going with this? A morning ‘til night, seven-day-a-week public transportation system serving a vibrant community that works and plays is a system that provides ‘fair and unprejudiced opportunity’ for health and well-being for all its citizens, whether old or young and regardless of individual income or health status.

Another way to say all of this is that a public transit system that supports community opportunities is a system that promotes equity—health equity. Expanded Mountain Line service enables opportunities. It enables community participation. It enables health and well-being. And, it’s the right thing for a healthy and progressive community to support.

Please join me and the Friends of Mountain Line to vote FOR our bus, Missoula’s future and to support health and well-being in our community.

Martin Blair is a member of the Friends of Mountain Line coalition and Executive Director of the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities at the University of Montana.

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