Breaking the Bus Barrier

I did it! I rode the bus. Anxiety about standing on a street corner waiting for a bus would eat me alive every time I thought about it. It might be cold, it might be hot. I might be lonely. Someone might offend me.  It might take too long. I knew all of these things to be true about riding the bus. Years ago, I worked for the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture.  Part of my job was to teach students how to ride the bus. Before that, I rode the bus in Greece where I spoke hardly a word of the language.  So how had I become so anxious about taking the bus? Was it inertia? 

Well, I didn’t mount the obstacles alone. I had a cadre of my Mode Shift Omaha buddies giving me advice.  Download this app My Ride OMA. Go stand on the northwest corner of 20th and Farnam. Another went so far as to take my hand and walk me in the right direction. Am I a baby bumpkin? Me? I’ve travelled the world farther than I could have ever imagined.  How could I suddenly feel so incapable?

The only thing I can settle on is the importance of laying a new pathway for changing behavior. I returned to my Nebraska home and eventually my love of public transportation became obscured. I didn’t need to ride the bus. I didn’t have to. Now my life is changing and I have to. Not taking the bus will place additional financial and time constraints on my family.

 It just so happens, I had a wonderful conversation while waiting for the bus. When the bus arrived, I stepped into a warm, cozy, quiet, and clean space. It reminded me of all my wild adventures around the world.  Me, out and about just like the good old days. I’m back! I was so proud I tried to take a selfie, but I couldn’t do it. If you are struggling, I encourage you to take advantage of Mode Shift Omaha’s Ride the Bus with Us program.  About once a month, they teach anyone who is interested how to ride the bus. If you are like me and figuring it out alone seems daunting, then get some friendly help. See you on the bus!

Paratransit System Unfair

A woman on her way to dialysis out west is dropped off in a wheelchair more than 3 blocks from her final destination and left to find her way alone. She is forced to backtrack and go into the street by a lack of curb cuts. Another woman is forced to sleep in the doctor’s office overnight because MOBY can’t come back and get her when an appointment runs later than hoped. In order to get MOBY service within Omaha, a client must live within ¾ of a mile of an existing bus line which means the route and accessibility can change at any moment.

Omaha’s car centered culture has not invested significantly in public transportation for the masses especially when compared to neighbors like Denver and Minneapolis, but failing to provide access to healthcare, work, and education for the disabled is an altogether different civil and human rights issue. Coupling para and public transit in Omaha is unfair. The disabled are being systematically discriminated against when their transportation is linked to insufficient public transit infrastructure and unstable social programs for ride reimbursement. Making services difficult to get and maintain is an unnecessary burden and thus an unequal opportunity. It is also a violation of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the ADA National Network, the Americans with Disabilities Act “guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.” The opportunities available to someone with a disability are severely diminished.  Notice the ADA doesn’t mention housing? Access to housing, education, and work are limited when you or someone you love is disabled. We have an obligation to go beyond a complement to the bus service. As one in ten Americans will experience disability, let’s get on board the KEEP IT ACCESSIBLE movement and demand better services for those with disabilities. When people have access they are healthier and they contribute more to their community. And everyone deserves that opportunity.

The Polar Vortex Coming

Winter will be upon us soon. Let a sense of adventure encourage you to walk more even if it is cold. If you like a 5k, try a 40 minute walk outside in 20 degrees below zero.  It feels good. It reminds me of getting dunked off of a raft in glacial water. Prepare wisely and it can be fun. I know I don’t get out much but I used to hike the Appalachians. Now I walk up and down the block, so the kids can yell for me.  Walking to and from work in extreme weather feels wild, adventurous, and youthful and it is free! Now that is “a thing”. Plus did you know you can burn a special kind of fat in extremely low temperatures?  No wonder no one wants to advertise walking! What will you do with the hard earned cash you save?

I can scale snow banks and slide in my Yak Tracks (totally choice, I highly recommend them) through the iciest of driveways. But I do so with trepidation. Stories of pedestrians losing their balance and finding themselves stranded in traffic stick with me. How can we aid the travel of our neighbors and friends during winter? Shovel your sidewalks and deice driveways with pet safe deicers. Pitch in where you can and please remember to keep sidewalks clear at all times. Everyone should walk more so that everyone knows walking is an option and we must create a demand for good walking conditions. So get out your gear and walk. Why not try it for your health and for fun?