An Interview with Marvin J. Plakut, President & CEO at Episcopal Homes of Minnesota
Transit for Livable Communities is leading a collaborative campaign to champion increased transit investments in Minnesota. TLC is working closely with a broad coalition of partner organizations who want to secure additional revenue to build out our state’s transit system in 15 years (not 30 or more). With $300 million in additional funding annually our region could build out the regional network of light rail and bus rapid transit, expand and upgrade bus service, and meet local needs for sidewalks, bike routes, ADA compliance, and other local transit improvements. The result would be greatly improved access and huge savings for households and employers.
Episcopal Homes of Minnesota is a member of this growing coalition. Active in the Twin Cities community for more than 100 years, Episcopal Homes of Minnesota’s mission is to enhance quality of life for seniors by providing homes and services that support each individual’s physical, social, and spiritual needs. Why does transportation funding matter to an organization focused on housing and continuing care for seniors? President and CEO Marvin J. Plakut explains.
Residents of Episcopal Homes of Minnesota (L); Marvin J. Plakut, President and CEO (R).
TLC: Why are transportation options essential for the Minnesota seniors you serve?
MJP: When seniors consider places to live, access to transportation is one of the most significant deciding factors because the lack of transportation is a huge hurdle. If residents cannot get to basic things like their church, to shopping for food, to the drug store for medications, to their doctor for appointments, or to visit friends . . . Without those features one is completely isolated. Add transit to the mix and the picture dramatically improves for seniors whose mobility is fairly limited as it is.
TLC: The senior population in the Twin Cities area is expected to more than double by 2040. How can we plan to meet the transportation needs of this growing number of seniors?
MJP: With more limited mobility that goes along with aging there needs to be increased convenience of transportation. In other words, for our seniors we need more transportation options at more convenient locations. And, my view is that as we increase density along University Avenue a number of these things will fall into place. Certainly the new Central Corridor light rail line, coupled with the existing bus service, is nice progress towards meeting these challenges. But we need more light rail throughout the entire metro area and beyond.
Seniors at Episcopal Homes of Minnesota (L & R)
TLC: This spring Episcopal Homes is beginning new construction to expand senior housing options along the Central Corridor light rail line. How did transit factor into your decision to expand at that location?
MJP: We were always confident of our location at University and Fairview because we have substantial waiting lists for our facilities. The new Central Corridor light rail line simply made our site that much more appealing. We are delighted to be doing a major expansion at this time and we anticipate our new facilities filling fairly rapidly when they open in 2014.
TLC: Given the response you’ve seen, would you plan to build more senior housing along future transit routes?
MJP: Increasingly seniors are coming to us saying, “I want to get on your waiting list because of the new light rail line.” University Avenue, between the Capitol building on the east and MN Highway 280 on the west, is our home. We would definitely like to build more housing along this stretch, particularly at light rail stops.
TLC: Have transportation options also been a key issue for Episcopal Homes as an employer?
MJP: Transit is one of the key features that attracts employees because of their ability to get to the job site. In terms of being able to find and keep a stable work force, transportation options are vital.
All photos courtesy of Episcopal Homes of Minnesota.