Members of a local multiple sclerosis support group had strong words for Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath and fellow council members last week when they talked about the possibility of losing the “lifeline” they know as the Coyote Run Transit System.
“We will remember, and we can vote by mail. Have no worries because we won’t need transportation for that,” said Debbie Van Zee.
Van Zee, 48, along with three other group members, said the council should not be considering the elimination of something that is so invaluable to the town’s elderly and disabled citizens.
Pat Roberts, 68, said she can’t understand why the council would want to discontinue a program that promotes nothing but a positive image for the community.
The primary message from Coyote Run’s nearly 816 riders is that the service is impeccable, drivers go above and beyond the call of duty, and they would never want to give up something they trust so dearly.
Mary Motto, 61, said when she first started using Coyote Run many years ago, she could walk up the steps and sit down in the seat. Now, Motto, with her body shaking due to the effects of MS, must be lifted on to the bus, and assisted to her seat by the drivers.
“Coyote Run is my lifeline. It gets me out of my bedroom,” she said. “I meet other people who ride the bus. The drivers are friendly and helpful.”
With tears, Dee Davis talked about how MS has made her immobile, requiring her to use an electric scooter to get around.
Davis, 80, said what the town council isn’t understanding, or even taking into consideration, is that Coyote Run’s vehicles are able to lift her scooter on to the bus. The Regional Transportation Authority doesn’t offer the same service, she said.
Without her scooter, Davis couldn’t get around. Without the proper transportation to take her scooter along, Davis will likely be confined to her home.
“Without this transportation, we are just going to be prisoners in our own home,” said Van Zee.
Davis, Van Zee, Motto and Roberts described the personal struggles they each suffer from MS, which impacts each person differently. Stability is one key to survival, and trustworthy transportation is one factor that cannot be ignored.
“While I can walk and move my hands just fine, MS has affected my vision,” said Roberts. “So, anytime I need to get to my doctor or go shopping, I call on Coyote Run.”
Roberts said she now lives alone, having lost her husband several years ago. But, she stresses she wants to maintains a certain level of dignity and pride, and won’t just start asking all her friends to drive her to the store or the doctor.
If the council decides to halt funding for Coyote Run in favor of the RTA taking over, Roberts said she would move to another community.
No longer able to drive, Motto and Davis said being forced to give up their car was like giving up a child.
“I could no longer just get in the car for a quick trip to Walgreens,” Motto said. “I still have some freedom with Coyote Run, and I am not having to ask all my friends to help me.”
The four also are angry over how the council has handled the issue. Van Zee said she feels the council is ill prepared and uninformed about an issue that impacts so many.
“The easy way to cut money is to take from the elderly and the disabled,” she said. “We are the least vocal of the population. Council members and the mayor have no clue who is riding Coyote Run. (Davis) and I tutor at local schools for free. We’re not just dead weight in the community. We contribute.”
The four women said they took exception to Mayor Satish Hiremath calling them elitist during the June 1 council meeting just because they fought to keep Coyote Run.
Roberts said it was a comment that hurt, because that’s not what their desire to save a good, quality program is about.
“The council should be proud of this service,” she said. “They should be awarded prizes for what they do for the elderly.”
Roberts said she tried the services provided by RTA. While the drivers are nice, she said, they do not provide the quality of service that Coyote Run does.
The four women said if the council thinks they are doing right by the town by getting rid of Coyote Run, they should research the service while riding an electric scooter or being confined to a wheelchair.