100% Otero Focuses on Transportation Improvements
Transportation programs aren't just about getting from point A to point B, they are services that can mean the difference between quality of life and blocked access to vital services in “normal times.”
By Nadia Sikes and Jan Bond, 100% Otero Transportation Team Lead and Co-Lead
An excerpt from the article originally published in Alamogordo Daily News
The book Anna, Age Eight launched a movement to ensure trauma-free childhoods. The book was the catalyst for creating the Anna, Age Eight Institute and its centerpiece program called the 100% New Mexico initiative. The 100% New Mexico initiative is working to ensure 100% of families and all residents have access to ten vital services for surviving and thriving. With service barriers removed, everyone gains the capacity to prevent trauma and social adversity, and to thrive.
The 100% New Mexico initiative, sponsored by New Mexico State University, has never been done before on a multi-county scale across a state in the US, so terms like groundbreaking and innovative describe it perfectly.
Locally, we are known as 100% Otero. One of the ten vital services for surviving and thriving is Transportation. Transportation programs are services that can mean the difference between quality of life and blocked access to vital services in “normal times.” Access to public transportation programs can support healthy families and prevent the instability that can lead to child neglect, substance misuse, domestic violence, and lack of job readiness and placement.
A countywide survey conducted to shed light on the various barriers to services was conducted from Sept. 16 to Nov. 11, 2020. The survey, in Spanish and English, was available online and designed to be quickly accessed through a smartphone using a QR code. The survey was promoted by posters, flyers, and personal contacts at events such as church services, medical appointments, food distribution sites, and by school district, city, and county outreach methods. The goal of the survey was to serve as a jumping off point, providing insight into areas that would merit further exploration.
Sixty-seven percent of the respondents to the survey reported that public transportation doesn’t run during times it is needed. Fifty-five percent of those responding to the survey reported difficulty in accessing public transportation altogether. Forty-three percent indicated that public transportation doesn’t go where the respondent needed to go, and 33% said that it takes too long to use public transportation.
Who needs public transportation? According to our (100% New Mexico countywide) survey, those earning less than $25,000 annually were most likely to report needing public transportation – about twice as likely as those in the next lowest income group. According to the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s Transit and Rail Division, there were 1.6 million trips made on public transit in the recent fiscal year throughout rural New Mexico. Ztrans, our local bus company, provided close to 7000 rides in the month of January, 2020.
Some populations, such as people with complex health conditions or mobility issues, or people living in rural communities, may have increased challenges to accessing safe, affordable, and appropriate transportation to and from healthcare and social services providers.
When 100% Otero conducted the county-wide survey about barriers to services, the transportation team, one of the ten 100% Otero family-serving sectors, began meeting regularly to discuss issues affecting access to services and ways to remove the barriers. The transportation team examined the services currently available including Ztrans, the public transportation provider for the Tularosa Basin and surrounding areas.
The 100% transportation team is investigating transportation alternatives such as walking, biking, and car sharing. The team is in the early stages of combining neighborhood-level grassroots organizing and city-wide advocacy to push for changes in public policy, street design, enforcement, and resource allocation to transform our city’s streets for better, safer walking and biking.
We want to empower our local consumers to be active participants in developing their transportation plans and to raise awareness and remove barriers to transportation. A Transportation Resource Guide is being developed and will be distributed widely in our community.