Why Jackson, MS needs better transit and complete streetsDecember 17, 2008
By Stephen Lee Davis
As you’ve (hopefully) seen on the front page, we’ve been asking for your photos of anything transportation-related in your community, and you’ve responded with photos of new light rail vehicles in Phoenix, bike boxes in Portland, Safe Routes to School in Ohio, and many others that are being spotlighted on the front page and in the sidebar just to your right.
But we especially wanted to share this story and photos we received yesterday from Dr. Scott Crawford in Jackson, MS. Hit the jump to continue.
I know you asked for pro-transit photos at your Transportation for America site, and believe me, I’m as supportive as I can be. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of positive photos for you, because Jackson Mississippi isn’t exactly a pro-transit city. They recently cut the budget for our transit system by 1.5 million dollars, and they are being sued by a consortium of people with disabilities for violations of civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (me being one of the plaintiffs).
The first and last photos are of one of the *BETTER* bus stops in Jackson, but as you can see, it is not accessible to people in wheelchairs. The second picture is of me being told, yet again, that I can’t ride the bus because the lifts don’t work. The third picture is of a friend of mine trying to cross a busy street in traffic because there are no accessible sidewalks or crosswalks in a busy shopping area.
You can certainly understand the importance of sidewalks, curb ramps, accessible buses, and accessible bus stops to people like me. Now, if we can just convince our leaders that they are good for everybody else too!
This is the state of transit in many of our smaller communities like Jackson. Underfunded and neglected by city or county governments, and more often than not, woefully ignored by State Departments of Transportation mostly concerned with pouring new asphalt and opening new highways.
Transit is not just something for big cities like New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. For residents like Dr. Crawford (and millions of others) in communities big and small, who either can’t drive or choose not to drive, it’s a basic question of equity.
Jackson did submit their “wish list” to the U.S. Conference of Mayors for potential economic stimulus money. Their $560 million request does include $6.1 million for 18 fixed route buses, and $720,000 for 12 demand response buses, but it also covers $188 million for street and road work. I wonder if the $800,000 for “JATRAN Shelter Improvements” includes making those terribly-designed curbs compatible for the disabled or elderly?
If you haven’t already, go and weigh in with your elected leaders and tell them that you want economic stimulus money for transportation invested in the smartest way. If you’re from the second or third district of Mississippi, you might want to tell your representatives to complete Jackson’s streets, making them safe for all users, and help upgrade Jackson’s buses to serve those who need them most.
What’s the view in your community? Send photos and/or your story to photos AT t4america DOT org