This past week I was invited to do a keynote presentation at the Ohio Public Transit Association annual conference in Columbus OH. One of their senior officials had heard me present at a disability conference on social capital and felt that the message was relevant for transit officials and invited me to do their keynote.
As I prepared for the talk, I was taken by the critical importance of transportation in the engagement process. We know that in order for people to build social capital they must be able to get to other people. In a way, transportation is the bridge to social capital.
We also know that people with limitations in social capital, are also the very folks who have the greatest challenges in finding transportation. Data is clear that the most socially isolated people are the elderly, people with disabilities, those in poverty, and other vulnerable groups. These are all groups of people who have limited access to automobiles, and, in many cases, even public transit.
So, in a way, public transit officials, the very people who attended the OPTA conference, are the unsung heroes in social capital. Through their efforts, they create bridges, and especially for those who are vulnerable, to other people.
To this end, we should all be supporters of public transit. Even if you have a car, and have sorted out your own transportation needs, we must all work to assure that there are adequate, accessible, and affordable public transit options for those who are at the greatest risk.
Transportation is the key to social capital, and we all have an obligation to assure that ALL people have access to transportation options!