I've blogged about our local mass transit before, but it's such a mess, there's much to write about.
I started using public transportation back in my college days. In fact, it was during my first week at St. Louis University that I rode a bus for the first time. Back then, mass transit was reliable (for the most part). We knew where the stops were and when the buses would arrive. We didn't wonder from one day to the next if we'd have transportation or not.
Today, things are much less certain. Not too long ago, financial problems led Metro to terminate several bus routes. The federal government rode to the rescue, providing funds to restore several routes and, for a short time, improve service. They bought new buses--with better wheelchair access, which is a good thing. When Mom was wheelchair bound, we had trouble taking her anywhere because more often than not, the buses' wheelchair lifts didn't work. We were once stranded at the mall for three hours, waiting for a mechanic to come and repair the lift.
What's not so good about the new buses is that, if the driver does not either pull up close to the curb or lower the bus, boarding can be difficult. Two years ago, Collin and I boarded one of the newbies for the first time. The driver could see that I was having a problem but did not lower the bus. I fell. I ended up bruised from thigh to ankle--and even now, I still have problems with that leg. Did the driver do anything to help? No. Last weekend, I boarded another one at the mall. Once again, the driver failed to lower the bus or pull to the curb. And if Collin had not been there, I would have fallen again. (About half of Metro's operators are in serious need of some attitude adjustment. I could do a month of blogs on these horror stories.)
Another thing I don't understand about the new buses: if Metro's objective is to increase ridership, why did they buy buses that accomodate fewer passengers? Duh!
Which brings me to their latest blunder: reduction of bus stops, presumably to save fuel. Now, I know zero about how that sort of thing works, but I do know that by reducing the number of stops, the loss of passengers is inevitable. Not everyone who normally uses public transportation will be able--or even willing--to walk several blocks to a stop. Will they lose more in fares than the gain in fuel costs? It's going to be difficult to get around for a while. Where do we board? And when we reach our destination, will we be able to get off the bus? There's no way of knowing.
Collin and I discovered the bus stop nearest our place was no longer a bus stop on Saturday. No warning, nothing. I haven't checked it out yet, but Collin says the closest stop to our place is at least six blocks to the south. To the north, it's about a half-mile walk to the mall. Not too bad in good weather--but winter's coming.
I complained--via e-mail, Twitter and message boards on the local TV station websites. Yesterday, I was informed that our stop would be restored. In two weeks.
I'm not sure why it will take two weeks to put up a bus stop sign that was just removed. Did they destroy them already? Well, I just bought a thirty-day pass I won't be able to use for...fourteen days?
Mr. Nations, I'd like a refund. Or at the very least, a fourteen-day pass to take effect on November 28th. E-mail me and I'll give you my mailing address.