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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Difficult Come, Easy Go

Local TV news announced last night that the late run of the Red Line bus route will be discontinued in January due to lack of funds. Don’t know yet if the JARC and Para-transit service will continue or not.

Most people will not be affected. Only the poor, seniors and people with disabilities are going to be affected. The problem is the same that it has always been.

  1. East Texans don’t use the bus if they can help it.
  2. The 20% of us who don’t drive are, after all, a minority
  3. We don’t like to spend tax dollars if we don’t have to on something that isn’t giving us a return on our investment.
  4. We figure bus riders are people we don’t really want to have in our community anyway. A Tyler city housing official once said, “We don’t really want to attract ‘those people’ to our community.” We want to attract rich retirees to Tyler according to an economic development official, not poor and middle class.

For those of us in the middle class or below, who are aging or who have a disability and for some reason depend on others or public transit to get around, we will only get what we need in the way of resources or retain what we already have if we make ourselves heard by those we elected to public office.

Before you dismiss me as a liberal, left wing kook, let me say up front that I’m a conservative down to my bones. Public transportation is an important element of a healthy economic infrastructure. It’s a long term investment we, as a community need to make. Here’s how the community can communicate our interest in making this investment.

  1. Right now, everyone who cannot now drive, who may not be able to drive much longer, who owns a business that depends on entry level workers (food service, hotels, retail, restaurants and service business should drop a note to their city councilman and the mayor and the manager of Tyler Transit asking them to re-examine the reduction of evening services. At the very least, alternative strategies should be aggressively pursued and the word should be got to the media that we’re not just cutting service, but finding a way to make it more cost-effective and more efficient.
  2. The advocacy community needs to begin a guerilla PR campaign to promote the idea that a whole segment of the community is stranded and needs a ride rather badly. The campaign needs to make the public aware that as they age or if they become disabled, they may need transportation.
  3. The advocacy community needs to promote bus service as a low cost alternative to the daily commute for workers in Tyler. Commuters are the allies of seniors and people with disabilities.
  4. More people need to take part in the regional transportation planning effort that is taking place in this area..

We worked awfully hard to get service expanded. We need to work a little harder to keep it evidently.

Good luck and may the force be with you.

Just one man’s opinion….

Tom King

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