San Jose Manor Apartments is a beautiful retirement complex for those who are 55+ years of age. I visit with Sonia, a relative of my Colombian family, at the complex, fairly frequently. While there recently, she asked me why JTA won't put a trash can at their bus stop. Being on the new mayors Transportation Committee I felt it a to investigate it and see what I could do.
Walking out of the complex with my trusty camera, my transportation guy instincts kicked in. At the corners of both Galicia/Cadiz and St. Augustine Road on the Southside, everything wrong with our transit system came roaring into focus. What a mess; on the northbound side of St. Augustine Road, trash strewn about and an aging wooden bus bench in a sandy mud hole pretty much sums it up. And on the southbound side, the bus stop is in the middle of the block, nowhere near the intersection where one might expect to see someone trying to walk across the street. The nearest cross walk is at the intersection of Old Kings Road and St. Augustine Road, about a quarter of a mile north, protected by a stoplight.
Now curious, I walked to the other bus stops east of the apartments at Old Kings Road and Galicia. Same story here too - a messy sand pile with an old wooden bench for passenger discomfort. Northbound needed cleaning up and a trash can, while southbound needed to be moved out of a rotten sand pit.
I started snapping photos, drew up a solution, to both get that trash can in and to address the other cosmetic issues I noticed upon probing, and sent the package to Councilwoman Lori Boyer. I wanted these amenities for these folks - it's a heavily used stop. Within a week, I got a call from Ms. Boyer's aid telling me the stops would be fixed. Almost immediately, JTA had the sidewalk torn up and painted markers and flags on the corners of St. Augustine and Galicia/Cadiz. Within three weeks a bus shelter went up on the new sidewalk on the corner of Galicia and St. Augustine. The bus stop on the southbound side of St. Augustine was moved up to the northside of Cadiz. The Old Kings Road stops were also fixed accordingly.
There is still the problem of these often feeble senior citizens having to play frogger while trying to cross over to the southbound side of St. Augustine Road. A painted cross walk with a standard, diamond-shaped, pedestrian crossing sign would at least make this a legal, if not safer location. I'm certain if this was an oversight, pressure will be forthcoming to correct it. But problems can be addressed, and with a little initiative, can be solved.
Lori Boyer is to be commended on immediate and effective action. Likewise, JTA has done an excellent job of making this an inviting place to wait for a bus. Ms Alvarez deserves the credit for bringing this to our attention. Anyone can do this, so let's make a positive impact. There are several more retirement apartment complexes throughout the city with similar exterior issues, and hopefully with a request to the right city council member, they'll all follow suit.
Editorial and photos by Bob Mann.