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The recent decision and implementation of bus fares for our senior and disabled citizens both infuriates and appalls me. I have been commuting via the City & Borough of Juneau (CBJ) bus system 24 out of 36 miles a day for five years. These years of commuting have brought me into daily contact with fellow bus riders, some with whom I've become acquainted, some with whom I nod and acknowledge our common bond; the rest I simply observe and respect as community members going about their lives. I have felt particular compassion and respect for those elderly and disabled community members whose daily lives and independence clearly benefit from our public transportation and thoughtful bus drivers.
Those of us who use the CBJ bus system on a regular basis do so for many reasons: financial, medical, environmental, social, personal, and many purely out of necessity of getting from point A to point B. I like to believe that I live in a civilized, progressive community where we value and support efforts to reduce pollution and use of fossil fuels, alleviate downtown congestion and parking, and encourage the independence and ability of all citizens to carry out their daily lives. Being middle-aged and employed, I do not expect to ride for free, despite the fact that many communities have implemented free public transportation to support precisely those goals of a progressive community. Further, for the same reason I willingly contribute to our Social Security system, I am committed to public systems from which those who need benefit now while those who will need (such as those of us who will age) benefit in the future.
What part of "fixed income" do we not understand? We have already taken the longevity bonus away from our elders, a blow that directly translates to less food, less heat, and less medical care for many previous recipients. Why, as middle-class, middle-aged and employed decision makers, do we lack the imagination to comprehend how significant $12 a month can be? Why, in a civilized society, would we ever expect our elderly and disabled citizens to pick up the slack when there are other creative, more equitable options with which to balance the budget? To suggest a few: lower the temperatures in the schools by 5 degrees, increase downtown parking fees, implement a small tax on vehicle registration, or seek public input for alternative suggestions before penalizing our elderly and disabled.