Archive for Saturday, March 20, 1999

FIXED-ROUTE BUS SYSTEM SUPPORTED DURING FORUM

March 20, 1999

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Representatives of several social service-type organizations see a fixed-route bus system for Lawrence as a means by which their clients could gain independence.

A fixed-route bus system in Lawrence will help people with disabilities, battered women, recovering drug addicts and criminals on probation take advantage of the opportunities available in this city, participants in a Saturday morning forum said.

The forum, held by the nonprofit Citizens for Public Transportation, got that message across to about 18 people who attended the forum at Independence Inc., 2001 Haskell.

But that's not the group the organization needs to reach, said Grant Goodman of Lawrence, who attended the event.

"What you people represent is a small segment of the Lawrence community," said Goodman. "This is an overwhelmingly affluent community."

Goodman said group members need to work against the image that public transportation is just "for poor people."

If they don't, he said, "there is going to be another 10 years of excuses."

Organizers have some sense they are making progress toward showing widespread support for public transportation.

The 1998 Lawrence Citizen Survey, done for the city commission, showed 78 percent of respondents are in favor of a citywide bus system and that a majority would be willing to bear increased taxes and fees to get it done.

Another good sign was the presence at the forum of city commission candidates Denise Gibson and David Dunfield. Jim Henry's wife, Kay, attended in his place because of a prior commitment.

Saturday's was the second such forum held by Citizens for Public Transportation, a group in support of a comprehensive public transportation system.

The invited participants included representatives of First Step House, the Women's Transitional Care Center, Independence Inc., Douglas County Community Corrections, the Head Start Community Children's Center and the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

All agreed a public transportation system would help their clients in their quests for independence.

Lorraine Cannistra, a counselor with Independence Inc., shared her perspective on the realities of living without a fixed-route bus system. She is confined to a wheelchair and does not drive.

"Transportation is probably one of the biggest challenges I face every day," she said.

She said she uses Douglas County Area Transportation, a door-to-door, on-demand van service serving elderly, low-income and disabled riders.

But she said she is limited to four rides per day, two of which are used to get to and from work.

"I can't run out of milk and still make a physical therapy appointment," she said.

Nor can she do things spontaneously. Reservations for rides often must be made a week in advance.

The other participants spoke of their clients having trouble making it to work, the doctor, counseling appointments or the grocery store.

"The limits just kind of ripple outward," said Libby Schmanke of First Step House.

-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is kblackwood@ljworld.com.

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