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By Richard Aguino, Veteran and Former AARP Staff Member

As a veteran and an advocate for those on tribal lands, as well as an advocate for the elderly, I have seen firsthand the need for public transit across rural New Mexico. Personally, I have relied upon public transit for years, to get me to and from work, to get me to different communities, and to get me to medical appointments at the VA.

During my time advocating for improved transit and utilizing transit, I have been afforded the opportunity to cross paths with many just like myself and to hear their stories. Whether people are riding public transit due to financial need, a lack of a driver’s license, a medical condition, or some other need, people rely on transit because it is affordable, convenient and reliable.

In the veteran community, this is incredibly important. While there are smaller clinics in surrounding communities, specialists and doctors for the VA are in Albuquerque, making it difficult for many veterans to access care without the use of public transit. Public transit not only provides access to medical care, but it also provides veterans the opportunity to get around with freedom and independence. Further, with door-to-door service offered by certain transit systems, veterans have expanded options for accessing the care they need. These transit systems are much more affordable than using a vehicle, and in some cases are free.

This is imperative in rural areas of our state, including tribal land. I have been pleased to see the expanded routes and connections, providing far more options than were formerly available, and it is my hope to see the future of transit expand even more to provide convenient access to public transit for all in tribal and rural areas.

Public transit serves entire communities in many ways; yet, it is easy for some to overlook the benefits of transit, as it may not be a part of their daily routine. However, for the veterans, the elderly population, and those with financial need, transit provides freedom and creates opportunity.

Many in our communities rely upon public transit, and it is not simply an option—it is their only option for transportation.

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