Happy Monday. Yesterday morning I got stuck trying to connect several things into one cohesive thought. I’m not sure I’ve got it all together, but, I’m going to put it out there anyway.
It started with this photo and its accompanying tweet:
@redhumbersider: In the Czech Republic’s second city, Brno, you can travel 15 minutes on public transport to a municipally owned & run outdoor swimming pool fed by spring water, surrounded by a forest. Why can’t British politics be about giving nice things to ordinary people?
It had been retweeted with the following comment:
@marcelineawhite: It would be lovely if people in Baltimore without cars had access to any of the lovely parks, forests, and swimming holes in Maryland. People without cars should also have access to nice things such as nature.
Back to transit. Yep, it returns to the forefront of my brain yet again.
Columbia/HoCo boasts so many beautiful, natural settings that are preserved and maintained for the enjoyment and well-being of residents. Yet, if you don’t have a car, can you get there? If we build new housing which is meant to be less automobile-dependent, we think a lot about whether the transit we have will connect residents to work and shopping. But what about parks?
It’s no good to say we have X amount of parkland if you are here and they are there and you can’t get there from here.
Truth in advertising: I did not sit down with a Howard County bus schedule before writing this.
I’m now going to add the piece that caused everything to fall apart yesterday: transit service for the disabled. Many jurisdictions fall short when it comes to something as simple as providing seats at transit stops. As I dug deeper, comments like this made me think:
Public transit is not affordable or accessible to everyone. Many people with disabilities (ie the inability to walk very far to bus stops, or to stand and wait or stand on crowded buses) cannot take transit. Several ppl in my family fall into this category.
So there’s another layer. We want our public spaces to be accessible to the disabled but are we good at enabling them to get there? I can’t address what we are doing in Columbia/HoCo, but I can try to find out. A basic search indicates that nationwide this appears to be an area that is often unaddressed.
A friend of mine was talking recently about how people have been drawn to nature during the pandemic, and that being around nature provides a valuable respite from challenges to our emotional and physical health. It made her more convinced than ever that we should enable those experiences in nature as much as possible - - that contact with sky, trees, grass, streams, birds, and so on meets a basic human need that we often forget we have. Something as simple as connecting people to parks through transit could make a huge difference.
But of course it’s never as simple as we might wish. Often the obstacle is financial investment. Sometimes the biggest obstacle is that we never even thought about it.
If you’re up for it, here are some thoughts about the state of transit in Maryland and what the future could hold:
Maryland’s next governor will have resources to upgrade transit | READER COMMENTARY, Brian O’Malley, president and CEO of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, in the Baltimore Sun