Darlene Liable-Crowe spoke to the Palatka City Commission at their meeting on January 11 to urge them to lobby the state officials for additional funding for public transportation to rural counties after a state-wide cut last year.
The reduction in funding, which affected Ride Solutions, the transportation company that serves Putnam County, is personal for Liable-Crowe, who is blind.
The Ride Solution buses are the City and county’s only form of public transportation and primarily serve low-income and elderly residents.
“I relied on Ride Solutions to keep my independence. They would pick me up and take me to my doctor’s appointments, to the store, and to the gym, which was my stress reliever”, Liable-Crowe, 67, said during an interview in her home in Palatka on Monday, “I was 28 when I was diagnosed with a progressive eye condition, but that didn’t stop me. I worked and raised my two boys until I turned 50 when my eyesight got worse.”
Liable-Crowe worked for the City of Palatka in the City’s finance department and for the Putnam County Tax Collector’s Office.
Liable-Crowe is still active and serves on the State of Florida Building Commission of Accessibility Advisory Council and the Florida Rehabilitation Council.
“We relied on the Ride Solution buses.” she said, “The drivers were amazing. They would come and pick me up at my front door and make sure I got where I need to be, safely.”
Because of the state cuts the service is now limited and most of the service’s routes were discontinued. People can still get rides to medical appointments, but must qualify and make appointments.
“There are many in our County, in our City, that are elderly, disabled, and unemployed that do not have transportation. They are being isolated to the point it is going to affect their mental health, their emotional health, and then their physical health.”
“We all want to be independent, you know, just to do our thing,” she continued, “The bus made the difference between us being stuck at home and being out and part of the community.”
The City Commission unanimously approved a resolution asking the state legislature to restore funding for rural transportation.