Good transit sustains community health.
Without community health our resilience is weakened. When bus service is sporadic, late, or unpredictable, when bus stops are open to the weather, riders—many with pre-existing health issues—suffer.
Cynthia, a resident of Southside, suffered with respiratory disease but continued to wheelchair ambulate to her unsheltered bus stop. She was the picture of poor transit services described in media reports that exposed the lack of transit essentials at the South French Broad and Bartlett bus stop. As a result, her health declined, along with that of the entire community.
Two more of my bus-stop friends also recently died. The Southside Community grieves. Three voices for transit, voting rights, and community health have disappeared. The health of the whole community is the victim.
Cynthia weathered rain, hot temperatures, and cold inclement mountain weather navigating Bartlett Street sidewalks and curbs to catch a bus. Broken sidewalks and crumbling curbs required a detour into the street. A final insult to Cynthia and her wheelchair was broken pedals due to the mismatch of bus ramp to curb.
In this case, our city’s chief administrator was notified. The remedy offered was a reference to our accessible corners (those corners in Winston-Salem are falling apart). Buses are unable to stop at many newly accessible corners due to congestion caused by blocking car traffic.
To any administrators who put “feet on the street” in Jane’s Walk, held in May along the Yellow Bus Route, the curb-bus mismatch was evident. Transit advocates Brian Haynes, Kim Roney, Jake Quinn, Senior Suffrage, GO supporters, and Octavius Boozier, the walk organizer, all walked in the rain and experienced the problems themselves.
Jane’s Walks are a worldwide celebration and opportunity to meet neighbors and converse along the street (the center of vital communities) often spurring more activism. Lack of funding as an excuse for little or no transit action reinforces and reflects current Federal practices of eliminating services to support community health and voting. Another Jane’s Walk for neighborhoods wheel chair mobility will include discussions about the closing of our wheelchair clinic.
The Federal Transit Administration sponsored a Transit Cooperative Research Program focused on Better On-Street Bus Stops. Better bus stops were identified by 65% of responders (80% overall response rate) as the top bus amenity needed. The synthesis reports customers’ and agency perspectives, and includes a discussion on “Design: Sidewalks with furnished zones expanded (bus stops).”
Two Livingston Street bus customers sitting at the unsheltered bench on South French Broad shared their wisdom on expanding voting rights. Their comments resulted in saving the Wesley Grant poll site. The description of two bus rides and walking up a hill to vote in the 2018 primary election supported the overturning of the Buncombe Primary Voting Plan by the State Board of elections after hearing the challenge voiced by Jake Quinn.
Although plans by city and county transit exist, the question remains: will planning lead to action? Bus shelter “promises” started in 2014.
Meanwhile, more of our aging population wait unsheltered for a bus as roads are widened for cars using the taxes and contributions of the population who built this city. A small pilot bus shelter project would transform lives. This is a small bet for community health.