Of course, broadly the concept of mobility centers on moving people (and from some perspectives goods) around in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Naturally, as a strategic energy management consultant, I understand and have an interest in how we enable people to get to where they need and want to go by balancing the least effort (personal energy) expenditure against the lowest possible energy density for mobility achieved.
As a person with a disenfranchised disability, I have an even deeper interest in efficient mobility. Because my disability causes me to have a shorter than average day and lower than average personal energy I am constantly looking for ways to conserve time and reduce my personal energy expenditure. This calculus causes me to be very conservative about the events I attend and the transportation modes I use to get to and from them.
My recent trip to Germany, Czech Republic and Austria underscored how better mobility overall improves mobility for persons with disabilities. I rented a car because of meetings in two small Austrian villages—getting to and from these by mass transit would have added 3 days to my trip, whereas having a car cut that total time down to under 1 day. But, on the rest of the trip, I would arrive at my destination, park the car for the duration of my stay, and enjoy cost- and time-efficient multi-modal transit. In these locales—Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Vienna and Nuremberg—I never felt that transportation was a limiting factor, even with my disability, the way I often do at home in Denver.
Why was that?
- First, there were so many options. In every city, there were always surface trams and buses, and most had underground trains and even bike rentals.
- Second, the multitude of options meant a stop was always just around the corner. I enjoy walking—especially when I’m visiting a new city—but if my symptoms kick in when trying to catch a bus a half mile away, it can upend my whole day.
- Third, the wait times were always short. Granted, the latest I was out was 10 PM, but I never waited more than 10 minutes. In Denver, when I use the buses to get to an from an evening meeting, I can be facing half-hour to hour wait times, which can disrupt my prescripted sleep schedule and medication schedule, or leave me for too long in the cold—all of which can crash me for the next day or even two.
I have always believed that Denver does fairly well with transit for a city of its size in the US. And, I truly enjoy riding the bus here. But, as I’ve learned to protect myself from losing entire work days, I’ve learned disrupting my schedule or expending extra personal energy—for example, by walking too much or spending too much time in the cold when I’m most vulnerable to my symptoms—I’ve simply used mass transit less and even gone to fewer events.
As an energy management consultant, that makes me crazy.
As a person with a disability, that makes me even crazier!
So, I’m very excited to participate in this luncheon and in the Alliance Center Mobility for All workshop on September 13th. I know we can find ways to take Denver’s transportation offerings to the next level, which will not only reduce the energy intensity of transit in our fair city, but also increase the mobility of persons with disabilities so that they can increase their participation in our amazing economy. See you there!