December 14, 2006
By HELEN UBINAS, Courant Staff Writer
As if life for residents of Hartford's Bowles Park isn't difficult enough.
Already, the housing authority has left them on their own to deal with overgrown grass, mice, roaches and mystery mold.
Now CT Transit is kicking the beleaguered residents to the curb.
As of a couple weeks ago, buses no longer enter the sprawling housing project after 7 p.m. on weeknights and Saturdays; which means if you're Yahaira Perez and need to buy a couple of bags of groceries after work, you have to hoof it to your apartment in the middle of the complex.
Up the hill from the stop on Granby Street, through the muddy grass. Watch that hole on your left, don't get caught on that clothes line - it's hanging a little low.
Man, it's dark out here, I tell Perez. You ever get scared?
Sure, she says, walking at a clip that forces me to run alongside her. But after a long day at work, a couple of hours commuting to and from her full-time job at Shaw's supermarket on Kane Street, all Perez can focus on is getting home to make dinner for her two kids.
"This is crazy," she says. It used to be a lot more convenient, not to mention easier on her back, when the bus dropped her off right across the street from her Nahum Drive apartment.
But first rule of being a have-not - adapt.
That's clearly what the folks at CT Transit thought residents would do. How else to explain their decision?
No hearing. No meeting. Just notices posted after the change had already been made.
Turns out other riders - none of whom live in Bowles Park - wanted easier access to and from Bloomfield's Copaco shopping center. To stick to their schedule, CT Transit chose to cut off the residents of the 61-acre housing complex. Time - at least the drivers' - is of the essence.
But then the letters and calls started.
"Boy, they've called everyone haven't they?" said David Lee, general manager of CT Transit when I checked in this week.
Residents at Bowles have learned the hard way that in order to be heard, they have to make a racket. And even that's no guarantee.
"It's like we don't exist," said Aubery Phillips, who rides two buses each way to his job at United Way in Rocky Hill. Already public transportation has its challenges; he has to get up at 4:30 a.m. to catch two buses to make it to work by 8. But at least he's an able-bodied man who can make the trek to his house from the bus stop.
Did they give any consideration to the elderly or the disabled who live here, Phillips wonders? What about that mother he saw just the other day trying to juggle her kids and several bags of Christmas gifts? The sidewalks here are dangerous enough during the day; they're downright treacherous in the dark.
"It's just insulting," he says. "It assumes people who live here don't work or go to school at night or even go Christmas shopping."
Lee said the decision was all about numbers - they took a head count this summer and found there weren't many riders getting off at Bowles Park at night. Even so, he said, the department will re-evaluate the decision - maybe they miscounted? - and get back to the residents.
Better late than never, I guess. But whether it's two or 20, there's little wisdom and no compassion in cutting off some of the city's most vulnerable. It takes all of four or five minutes for drivers to make the loop inside the complex.
Doesn't seem to be too much for paying customers to ask for.
Until someone gets that, the folks at Bowles Park continue to adapt.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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