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Going Public: United Way Seeks Input from the Community to Tackle Transportation Issues in the Region

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United Way of Southeast Missouri
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Transportation Conversation held at the Shawnee Park Center in Cape Girardeau on October 20, 2022

Woods: This is KRCU's Going Public. I'm Dan Woods, and I'm joined in the studios by Elizabeth Shelton. She's the Executive Director of the United Way of Southeast Missouri. Good to see you.

Shelton: Thank you. It's great to be here.

Woods: So let's talk transportation [it] was listed by employers, social service agencies and citizens as one of the top four challenges community members face here in the area. Let's talk about that.

Shelton: Thank you. Let's do. We got that information when United Way did our Community Survey which we do prior to our funding cycle every three years, just to make sure that we're giving where the need really is. And so we asked about what some of the top concerns are: childcare, affordable housing, and transportation — were always in there, whether we were talking to people in need, people helping those people in need, or our employers.

Woods: So what are some of the challenges that are that we're facing with the transportation issues here?

Shelton: Well, when we try to address transportation, I think a lot of people simply think of, you know, the buses, or, you know, taxi service. But really, that's more encompassing, it's really anything that transports someone from point A to point B. So we have a lot of people in this community, especially some of our homeless, or people living at the poverty level who depend on bicycles. So bike trails are very important to that population. We also have a lot of people who walk and there are certain areas in Cape Girardeau, where people are afraid to walk, where it's unsafe, where the sidewalk might be so torn up that it's a safety hazard. And so these are things that we're also looking at, along with the public transportation resources that already exist.

Woods: Would this be something even like a sidewalk being lit properly at night, if it's dark, and people have to go back and forth in the dark?

Shelton: Absolutely. And so we have this Transportation Coalition that we pulled together. And we have members of the city there and of existing transportation resources like CTA, and Southeast Missouri transportation service, and a lot of social service organizations are there. And we are all working collectively to try to identify new resources and make sure that the existing ones are as efficient as they can be.

Woods: And there are probably — or, is it fair to say there are transportation services available that people just don't know about?

Shelton: Yes, there are. In fact, right now, CTA is running their bus service, for free, they have a east/west at a north/south route. And those are free. And a lot of people aren't aware of that. They also have an on-demand service that a lot of us think of as a taxi service. And that is for a fee. And we're looking we're working with them, and hoping that the group together can identify ways that, you know, they may need to add a stop or something like that, that would serve a big part of the community. But of course, all of this takes money. So we also were having to figure out, okay, if this needs to be done, how can we fund it? Is there grant funding? Is there federal funding? You know, is it something that our community or our employers might get behind, but we're really in the early stages right now.

Woods: Okay, and I guess if folks have questions, they can contact United Way and you can help direct them or answer any questions, right?

Shelton: We'll do what we can. And we also would like input from everyone. We are collecting input in a survey that is online on our website, and will be available in print at social service organizations, the library, places like that, because we want to hear from everyone who needs public transportation wants to see improvement, whether it be in the sidewalks or you know, lighting, like you said, or has ideas for us.

Download a copy of the survey.

Dan is a 1994 graduate of Southeast Missouri State University. He majored in radio and minored in political science. He spent three of his four years at Southeast working as a student announcer at KRCU – the beginning of his radio career.