2018-05-16 / Letters

On-demand transit won’t help the poor

The excellent article “A tale of two counties” in the April 25 Observer discussed how Chesterfield and Henrico counties are approaching mass transit. Henrico is extending bus service on Broad Street to Short Pump. On the other hand, despite frequent pleas from residents along the Jefferson Davis corridor, Chesterfield appears to be putting aside fixed-route bus service in favor of on-demand services such as Access Chesterfield and Uber.

On-demand services will not work for low-income families. Poverty along Jeff Davis is well documented by the high percentage of area public school children on free or reduced-price lunch. For regular travel for shopping, or to jobs or school, on-demand transportation for those in poverty is far too costly.

We looked into Access Chesterfield for an acquaintance of ours, formerly homeless, who lives in the Jeff Davis corridor on disability income of about $750/month. His fixed housing expenses come to about $575/month. A round-trip with Access Chesterfield costs $12. If he were to use Access Chesterfield just once a week to go food shopping, the transportation would cost him $48 out of the $175 he has to live on each month after housing expenses. That’s not reasonable.

On-demand services also won’t work for most students. Many students accumulate substantial debt to support themselves and pay for schooling. Adding $60/week to get to classes every weekday would be a significant additional financial burden.

But for commuting college students living anywhere in Chesterfield County, there is no other choice for public transportation. In contrast to J. Sargeant Reynolds in Henrico, no buses serve either of the two campuses of John Tyler Community College, and at present there is no efficient way to reach VCU’s Monroe Campus by bus from Chesterfield County.

It is widely understood that one of the best ways to escape from poverty is through education. A fixed route bus line along Jeff Davis that connects the corridor to VCU and the JTCC Chester campus would enable residents along that corridor to reach those two campuses. What better way to help reduce poverty in the corridor than to provide inexpensive public transportation to JTCC and VCU?

The Northern Jefferson Davis Special Area Plan completely missed this idea in its discussion of transportation in the Jefferson Davis corridor.

Lindsay N. Childs

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