Victory on Backus Street!
Here at Center for Disability Rights, we fight for the rights of people with disabilities. Access is a civil right and everyone should have access to reliable transportation to get from point A to point B safely and on time. So when the mobility and independence of our people is threatened, we do everything we can to help. Transportation Action Group (TAG), a group that focuses on improving transportation for Monroe County, recently sprang into action to assist the bus riders in Monroe County, New York with a bus stop issue.
In June 2015, Rochester-Genesee Regional Transit Authority (RGRTA) announced that they would start removing about 400 bus stops throughout the year. This prompted TAG to speak with representatives at RGRTA after learning this included the bus stop in front of the Edgerton Recreation Center in Rochester, New York. Many people live in the area, hold meetings there or just travel to and from the rec center to get out of the house for a while. Since RGRTA made public the decision to remove this bus stop, we have gotten a lot of phone calls from people explaining that this would seriously inconvenience their routines or lessen their frequency of travel. Transportation has a tendency to make or break a person’s ability to get out into the community and do chores or go to work. Removing a bus stop can be devastating to some people.
One call we received was from a 71 year old woman who was not able to walk very far. She lived a couple of blocks from the bus stop which she used for the last ten years. But now she had to walk a block further to the next bus stop and take an extra bus (4 instead of 3) just to go buy groceries. As is the case for many people, she lived alone and had no one to assist her in carrying items to and from the bus. This was upsetting because she has had to figure out how to get her groceries safely home and grocery pick up services were too expensive to justify using.
Another caller was concerned that as a person with low vision, she would have to walk further and cross more busy roads than before. She explained that she worried about cars hitting her already. What would happen with added obstacles to the next closest bus stop? Adding another block increased her anxiety about traveling. She confided that she didn’t know if it would be worth it to travel alone anymore if her bus stop would be removed. This would severely limit her freedom to travel around the city.
A representative from TAG went to an open house RGRTA held on June 9th, 2015 at the transit center. They spoke with representatives of RGRTA about the removal of the Backus Street bus stop, explaining its impact on disabled community members, and advocated for the bus stop to be brought back.
Due to TAG’s strong advocacy, RGRTA informed us last week that the bus stop would be put back! The bus stop will be back in place in September much to the excitement of the people who were coming and going from there. It is an important step to creating more opportunities for independence in the disability community. Knowing you have the freedom to travel wherever you want to without barriers is powerful to have. TAG could not have done this without all of the community members who came forward to tell us their stories! Thanks to all of the advocacy from community members and TAG, we are now looking forward to having the bus stop back in the Edgerton community!