“This is about being dignified. Everybody deserves a dignified life. Everybody deserves dignified transportation, and I feel really passionate about how we move in our community.”
Aslyne Rodriguez is a voice for COTA. As our director of government affairs, her job is to act as an advocate for COTA customers and employees. Whether it’s a senate or house bill in the Ohio state legislature, or the floor of Congress, Rodriguez communicates vital information about the needs of our customers and the changing nature of public transportation.
“It’s critical that mobility companies have a voice in our state government because it impacts our folks. And it’s truly impacting some of our most vulnerable community members. We know that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color, and our ridership is 61.2% minority,” Rodriguez says. “If we’re not talking about transportation [in government discourse], then we’re not talking about economic development. If people can’t access their place of work, their place of worship, the places they need to live, learn and thrive, then we’re not doing our job.”
Through her work, Rodriguez advocates for mobility legislation that positively impacts all COTA customers in ways that won’t leave our most vulnerable ridership behind. She is passionate about equitable actions in Central Ohio.
“This is about being dignified. Everybody deserves a dignified life. Everybody deserves dignified transportation, and I feel really passionate about how we move in our community,” Rodriguez says. “Not just as people, but how we move our people in a community. How do we integrate ourselves into food service and healthcare and education? Right now, we’re a big hot spot for students to get access to Wi-Fi. We’re thinking about our on-demand service and making sure that it’s ADA compliant so that someone who has a wheelchair can use our vehicles. I’m deeply passionate about how we serve our community [so] that every community member can use it — from young to sage.”
Rodriguez recognizes that 2020 has been a particularly tumultuous year, especially for COTA’s minority customers. From the impacts of the pandemic to the growing rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, Rodriguez says that now is the time to transform COTA in ways that better serve our customers.
“[There’s] no better time than the present to do the right thing. To stand up. To say our transportation organization is going to be an equitable, inclusive and diverse transportation organization that cares about the all, not the sum,” Rodriguez says. “It’s critical right now that COTA stands with the movement [and] that we say, ‘Black Lives Matter.’ And it’s not that all lives don’t matter. It’s that Black lives matter; and, until Black lives matter, all lives can’t matter. Our ridership is primarily people of color. Our operators are people of color. To not stand in the gap, to not say that we stand with the movement and with the climate right now — to not have a full voice in this — I think, would be setting us back to the 1950’s.”
Team members like Rodriguez work to drive COTA toward a more innovative and equitable future. A strong voice in local, state and federal government is a vital component to COTA’s transformation.
“COTA is a mobility solutions provider that is in a state of reinvention. We have a new team in our space, but we also have folks who are sages and who’ve been our operators for many, many years. We are in a place where I think sage and new need to come together to be thinking about how we provide the best service possible for all of our customers,” Rodriguez says. “I feel really confident in the leadership that we have. I’m proud to be a part of COTA at a time when we have, in my opinion, a make or break state. We’re going to be the best in class, and I think that we are in a position to do that as long as we are willing to hear everybody. This isn’t one person who makes a decision. This is a team. We always say ‘team COTA’ here. I believe that there is a space for team COTA to really take us to the next level.”
Over the next several weeks, we’ll share the stories of COTA employees from every facet of our organization. Follow us on social media to make sure you never miss a story! These are the people who embrace our mission — to move every life forward.