Myself and my husband spent parts of our childhoods growing up in Cochrane. We both moved to Calgary to pursue programs at Mount Royal University. We stayed in Calgary for a few years, but in 2009 we came back to Cochrane to be closer to my family.
We love this community. We feel very connected here; both of us have volunteered for organizations and many events over the years (Cochrane Humane Society, FCSS, Jacket Racket, Big Brothers Big Sisters fundraisers, etc.), and we have made wonderful friends here. As adults living with disabilities however, we live on fixed incomes and have found the cost of living a challenge. Rents are consistently higher than Calgary, no matter the economy, and the lack of transit makes transportation expensive. Until 2017, my husband was able to drive, and we had a vehicle. That ended when he became ill and had to give up his licence. Up until then, I often walked and sometimes relied on friends, family, the CAR Program or Rocky View Handi-bus and taxis to help me get around, but once we no longer had the car as an option at all, these became our only options.
We intentionally chose to live in downtown central Cochrane so we could access services, shopping, work and events more easily. Despite this, lack of public transit seriously limits where and when we can go. We are careful not to ask our family and friends to drive us too often as we do not want to be an imposition. Plus, people can’t always help us. Even with walking as much as we can, our household transportation costs are on average $212 per month. This is just local transportation, it doesn’t include the trips to medical appointments in Calgary.
Sadly, after nine years here, we are exploring a move back to Calgary to reduce our cost of living expenses. That transit continues to be a debate rather than a recognized need, has also made us question the community we live in. Words like “inclusive,” “welcoming,” “valuing Diversity” ring hollow in the shadows of the transit debate. Who does this community include, welcome, value? Only those who can afford vehicles and can drive them?
Yes, there are costs to public transit. There are also costs to building and maintaining roads for vehicles, Recreation Centres, Tri-Site developments, ball and soccer fields, dog parks, etc. Prioritizing spending is not easy, but there are dollars available for public transit. If this opportunity is missed, people who are not able to drive will need to make the same decision as us.