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EDITORIAL TO COTTAGEGROVE.NET
By Jim Evangelista
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LTD Bulletin Board / Riders' Forum by clicking here.
Will it take a court order for the residents of Creswell and Cottage Grove to make it home tonight ?
Many suggest it’s the only way to get LTD’s Board to listen to what riders need and expect from this service. After speaking with riders on the route, businesses that pay LTD a percentage of payroll taxes keeping fares stable, professional drivers throughout the system showing consideration for each passenger’s unique needs, supervisors and operations folks seamlessly accomplishing the daunting task of keeping the whole shebang running, Googling every relevant word to read lots of material I had never been aware of; I’m inclined to agree.
Getting from here to there and home again, if you live in South Lane has been a bumpy ride and folks are saddle sore from the experience. Video camera in hand, I learned what folks had to say. Businesses feel their pockets are being picked without recourse; money seems to leave town to malls and elsewhere and not into their registers. They don’t believe money flows into town by bus as it seems to flow out. Some thought LTD should promote “rural” communities, showing businesses their dollars are well spent.
Conversely, riders often commute to jobs unavailable in South Lane. We depend on too few buses; hoping to make the 5:30 home where we pay our bills. Some leave work early, rather than miss the ride home; standing on crowded buses on I5 at 65 mph. More people ride the bus every day for these reasons and more. We ride, with or without our bikes, needing this service, in most cases, for survival. We are wheelchair bound, environmentally concerned, unable or unwilling to drive for many reasons; often financial. Asking these questions keeps reminding me what Deep Throat said, “follow the money.”
At a recent meeting in Cottage Grove, LTD offered its survey and analysis of the ridership of South Lane. Most attending were amazed and vocal at the skewed sampling and results. I shared my video interviews, offering a compellingly different set of rider’s concerns and needs, in their own words. Afterward many felt our requests for scheduling were ignored and there is no incentive or willingness for LTD to accept that this is no longer a rural route. Combine the growth and needs of the Creswell/Cottage Grove corridor; numbers will show we’re an urban route, and should be serviced as such. A real survey would bear that out, I believe, then federal mandates would require more service costing LTD money. You do the math.
Online information produced by Lane Council of Governments, though dated, supports that trend. Region 2050, a statewide planning effort “to improve and sustain quality of life in the Southern Willamette Valley over the next 50 years,” recognizes Cottage Grove and Creswell as vital players in the development of the Regional Growth Management Strategy. In fact, growth in Creswell alone in 2000 was 4%, doubling the entire metropolitan area, and they don’t even have a WalMart! An LTD Board member sits on that committee, so they know this, right? Ya gotta love Google.
Everyone I spoke with took issue with the appointment versus election of the LTD Board, so I read Senate Bill 588, sponsored by Senators Morrisette, Prozanski and Walker; and Representatives Ackerman, Barnhart and Holvey. Simply stated it: “Requires election of members of boards of directors of certain mass transit districts situated in standard metropolitan statistical areas with populations of 400,000 or fewer individuals.” I support that legislation, and so does every rider, business owner, politician, and on and off the record employee of LTD I speak with. Management, planning and Board appear disconnected from operations and transit needs of the riders. Changing the process of selecting the Board would improve service for all LTD riders. Summing up the feelings of many, one rider said, “those folks making the decisions affecting my life are driving their cars to work and home, rather than riding the bus with me.”
These questions aren’t unique to our area but they don’t tax their businesses, like LTD does. It’s easy to consider what a Max-like system would do for this region; yet some here would sooner disconnect from LTD, perhaps forming its own system, as Florence has attempted.
Most support dialoguing amongst ourselves, Town Hall meeting style, to reconcile each others needs, so we pull in the same direction. Certainly, Creswell and Cottage Grove should cooperate and speak with one voice.
It will take local leadership.
LTD should extend it’s deadline to get a more accurate picture of the needs of this district. Some suggested concerned Board members and staff plan a new date to meet here with representatives of riders, businesses and local government to plan a service schedule/program that works for now and the future; at an time when everyone can attend. An independent survey of the ridership is a essential. In this way, injunctions and court orders won’t keep the buses running. Rather, it will be cooperation and agreement that support the clear growth needs of this vital corridor and it’s riders.
Please post a comment to this story or your own opinion to our LTD Bulletin Board / Riders' Forum by clicking here.