Don't put the brakes on our bus routes! That was the cry out of a packed public hearing in Petersburg, Tuesday night.
City transit officials had proposed a plan to slash nearly half of Petersburg's bus lines, to save a million dollars. Some of those routes head to the South Park Mall in Colonial Heights, Fort Lee and VSU.
However, the Petersburg City Council voted to send the plans back to the drawing board, or bus route map. This is an example of the public speaking out, and officials listening up. City leaders now want to reduce costs, without nixing any routes.
For many Petersburg bus riders at the hearing, the issue was not about convenience, but survival.
"With (Petersburg's) high unemployment rate, I don't understand how you would try to take away these people's jobs. These people need to go to work," said Curtis Russell at the podium.
Jayne Sampson, a single mother of five children, works two jobs at the South Park Mall. With no ride, Sampson worries how she'll get to work, to support her family.
"Most cities are urging people to park and ride, to use the mass transit system," implored Sampson to the city council.
Others feared how they would they get to the doctor or hospital. Wanda Howard says she has routine doctor appointments in Colonial Heights for her arthritis.
"When I get sick, I can't afford to go somewhere else," said Howard.
Ruby Tucker uses a cane and rides the public van for the disabled. She says the van gives people like her the ability to not have to depend on someone else, or government programs.
"It gives you some kind of freedom," explained Tucker. "You can leave home, get on the van and do what you want to do…I had the opportunity to see two ladies in a wheelchair getting on the van to go shopping."
However, with a million dollars to cut from its transportation budget, city transit officials say they aren't getting help from surrounding drop-off points, such as VSU, Colonial Heights or South Park Mall.
Still, bus riders insisted on finding a different route to saving money, other than eliminating their line.
"How are poor people going to get where they need to go if they have no bus?" questioned Mary Manson.
New options now being considered now instead of slashing routes are combining trips and raising fares. The city's transportation administrators have until the next council meeting, July 2nd, to sort out a new plan.
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