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Commentary: To get you where you’re going

Miranda Lambert
courtesy photo
Miranda Lambert

Even though I was a passenger on a Go West bus while in grad school, my first real experience with public transportation in our area was while I was overseeing the Genesis Garden Mobile Food Pantry. During the pandemic, Genesis Garden partnered with our local public transportation system to deliver food to families in need. I helped load thousands of pounds of groceries onto transit vehicles that traveled across the County.

The following year, when the Transit Director position for the City of Macomb became vacant, a friend of mine at City Hall persuaded me to apply for the position. Now in that position, I’m here to shine light on the transportation services provided to our residents and its importance in fostering community and economic development.

Public transportation has long been hailed as a cornerstone of urban mobility by connecting people, reducing traffic congestion, and promoting environmental sustainability. However, its significance extends far beyond the city limits, reaching into the heart of rural America. Beyond merely linking destinations, rural public transportation serves as a building block for economic growth, providing essential access to education, employment, healthcare, and community services.

To address transportation needs, our Transportation Department offers two types of services, Go West and Demand Response.

Go West is a fare-free fixed route system that offers routes that serve both the City and WIU student population.

Demand Response is a door-to-door service offering trips throughout McDonough County.

By offering accessible and affordable transportation options through the assistance of grants and local match agreements, we have the opportunity to enhance social inclusion by ensuring all members of our community, regardless of socio-economic status or physical ability, can access essential services.

For students in rural communities, public transportation can be the key to unlocking educational opportunities. As home to Western Illinois University, Go West serves as a convenient and sustainable way for students to commute between the university and surrounding areas. These routes not only take students to classes, but also open up opportunities for social connection and employment.

Job seekers in our community rely on public transportation to commute to employment, which in turn fosters economic growth by connecting the workforce to job opportunities that may otherwise be unreachable. According to the American Public Transportation Association, public transportation offers a five to one economic return as a result of both the short-term stimulus impact and a longer-term, cumulative impact on economic productivity.

As we face a demographic shift of an aging population, public transportation becomes crucial in ensuring that seniors can maintain their independence and access healthcare services. As individuals age, they may face physical or financial constraints that limit their ability to drive, which can then impact their ability to make it to healthcare appointments, and with the healthcare system losing billions of dollars in missed healthcare appointments a year, it makes public transportation a vital lifeline.

A great example of this is our out-of-county non-emergency medical trips where you can book an appointment for a specific healthcare specialist that might not be available in town, but in such places as Springfield or even Iowa City for $10.00 round trip.

The importance of public transportation in rural America transcends mere convenience; it is a key to socio-economic development and community building. Recognizing and investing in rural public transportation is not just a matter of convenience; it is a commitment to ensuring equal opportunities and a thriving future for all residents, regardless of their geographic location. By embracing the value of public transportation, rural America can bridge gaps, connect communities, and pave the way for a more inclusive and sustainable future.

So always remember, the City of Macomb Public Transportation Department is here to get you where you’re going.

Miranda Lambert is Transit Director for the city of Macomb.

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Western Illinois University or Tri States Public Radio.

Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.