#SOL17: ETHNN Transportation Committee Talk about Austin conference

I spoke at the East Texas Human Needs Network (ETHNN) Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 28th. The focus of my talk was the Transportation Works conference in Austin by Texas Society of Independent Living Councils (TX SILC) that I attended at the start of March. I was a one of 30 selected as Consumer Advocates in Transportation, or CAT. I had already written a 1 3/4 page article about the conference on my Word Press. I was glad to see Leroy Sparrow, the VP of Tyler Transit in attendance, as well as our Transportation Committee Chairman, Kristy Range, who had formally invited me to speak, and of course, Christina Fulsom–the Director of ETHNN.

I started my talk by mentioning my day’s earlier errands and the bus routes that I’d taken. My day had begun with a visit to my University of Texas at Tyler counseling intern at the Andrews Center–a Blue SW (south) drop point after a Green North run to the Downtown Bus Hub. Then I took Blue SW (north) ride back until I reached S. Broadway at the Downtown Square. After a bank visit, I caught the Red South to Bergfeld Center, where I picked up my Asthma-COPD drugs from CVS Pharmacy. Bergfeld Center is the second bus hub in Tyler. I caught the Yellow SE bus to ETHNN Headquarters on Hightech DR near Shiloh & Paluxy. Yes, I took four out of five lines–all but Purple–and rode the bus five times. Alertly, Christina made notes of the time my errands actually took in addition to the lengthy time involved. I pointed out that I ate during wait times.

My focus was on the need for sidewalk repair; a transit trip needs to be “enjoyable, not just possible,” to cite a speaker at the conference. Since the conference, it was revealed that the City of Tyler made a sidewalk survey in 2010–in stark contrast to some city employee’s belief that the nearest landlord was supposed to repair sidewalks. Leroy brought up that a new sidewalk study had begun, but it could take a year to complete. Furthermore, the City of Tyler hired an agency to help with photographing the sidewalks after I’d suggested a cheaper, grass roots “foot soldier” report by citizens. I saw a video on Facebook after the conference, in which a lady complained about no sidewalks on well-to-do Rice RD, where she walking her dog.

One of my sidewalk suggestions was to remove the “no asphalt” law, especially in cases in which one sidewalk block becomes slightly raised–and easy to trip over. Moreover, sidewalks sometimes shrink because of the land–such as on Beckham at the bridge where Ferguson ends. Sidewalk crumbling isn’t always due to giant tree root growth.

We need to install bicycle racks at the two main bus hubs and next to Neighborhood Services. Moreover, a previous Tyler Transit director stated that the city had won some bike racks in a grant, so they must be in storage somewhere. It would be so easy to plunk a bike rack in those few key places while sidewalk repair could take quite a while. The Bergfeld Center’s bus stop bench has ample concrete-paved space behind it.

Eventually, we’ll schedule bus strips for the two remaining bus lines. In April, we’ll plan a Red South bus trip to the Broadway Mall for lunch at Chipotle’s (probably) and wander around a bit. Later, we’ll shoot for a Green South bus trip to restaurants in the UT-Tyler area. Hopefully, we’ll expand the trips to include more committees of ETHNN, and maybe head a different direction on the lines. Riding the bus represents a cultural change. Some acquaintances expressed fear of riding the bus–wondering if a poor, often minority crowd would attack. I responded that plenty of us are too old and disabled to cause much trouble. After the meeting, I told Kristi about folks visiting each other on the bus.

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