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Disabled residents say bus stop too far (video)

By Melissa Crowe
Jan. 15, 2013 at 7:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 14, 2013 at 7:15 p.m.

Ed Nelson traces the path used by clients who cross a field from the nearest bus stop to access the social services offices that relocated to a Leary Lane facility.

Victoria Transit By the Numbers

• Serves the entire population of the city

• Averages 23,004 passengers monthly

• Ridership increased 13.5 percent in the past year.

• More than 60 percent of riders use the service to access employment opportunities and shopping areas.

• More than 30 percent of users ride Victoria Transit to access medical services.

• 86 percent of users ride Victoria Transit two or more days a week.

• 61 percent of passengers use Victoria Transit four or more times a week.

Source: VictoriaTransit.org

Asking for help is hard enough, but when faced with physical barriers, dignity and self-confidence are often the first to go.

Ed Nelson, 48, of Hallettsville, wants to reroute a portion of the Victoria Transit System to improve access to help from state agencies.

The project came from an internship he had at Child Protective Services before he graduated in December with a social work degree from Texas State University at San Marcos.

"At first, it was just an assignment," Nelson said. "It wasn't until ... I saw these people seriously struggling that this is a real problem."

This past summer, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission moved to the 2300 block of Leary Lane from their location in the Town Plaza Mall on Laurent Street.

While the four agencies moved, the bus route stayed the same.

To reach those services, people must walk from the bus stop south on Mockingbird Lane, then cut across private property, walk up a steep incline and then across the parking lot of the state health and social services offices.

Nelson argues that the city needs a new bus stop on Leary Lane so people can safely get the help they seek.

Alfredo Sanchez, 57, of Victoria, makes the trek up to the social services agencies by bus for his food stamps. He said the journey is challenging because of his disability.

"It's difficult for me to get up there," Sanchez said. "There's no bus stop on Leary Lane at all. I've got go through a pasture to get to that building."

He suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed and bedridden for a year. He is just now regaining mobility.

"There's a lot of holes and rocks on that field," Sanchez said. "I have to use a cane so I don't trip and fall ... We're disabled. Where is our help?"

He said he does not understand why the agencies are inaccessible and without sidewalks.

"To go through a field to get to a building is nonsense," Sanchez said. "I'm dropped off on Mockingbird and have to walk all the way around and through a pasture to get to a building. That's just crazy."

Sanchez said these services, intended to help people, are falling short.

Nelson is concerned about the psychological and physical barriers that prevent people from access to care.

"These are the very people who will fall through the cracks," Nelson said. "They risk becoming invisible or service resistant. If the struggle is too difficult ... they can begin to stop trying."

Nelson presented his case Nov. 13 to the Victoria Metropolitan Planning Organization, as well as Dec. 18 to Victoria City Council.

Development Services Director Jared Mayfield said the city is working with Victoria Transit to address the bus stop issue.

He said the goal is to modify the existing bus routes and 30-minute turnaround by removing a low-user stop and adding the new stop on Leary Lane.

He said a stop near the state services facility would merit a shelter and bench.

In the meantime, the city offers "Para-Transit" service for people who are unable to use the fixed route service.

Mayfield said wheelchair users trying to access the state services building could qualify for the $1 Para-Transit rides.

Without access to these services, the potential exists for increased crime and health costs in the community, Nelson said.

Ronnie Morris, an agent at Joe Pratt Insurance, said the lack of a bus stop is neither safe nor conducive to those people.

"That's what the bus service seems to be for, that kind of clientele," Morris said. "If a big part of that clientele's life is picking up those services, it would appear to me that the bus ought to take them over there, instead of having to walk three blocks in the mud, wet and cold."

Morris said the business is not affected by people walking through the open field, but said he was concerned for their wellbeing.

He wants to see the bus rerouted to go in front of the social service agencies.

"Those poor people need some help," Morris said.

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