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These days I take the bus to go shopping. Today, the bus I was sitting on did not leave Maverick after it seemed that everyone had loaded on. Turns out, a man in a wheelchair needed to be loaded via the use of a special ramp that folds out from the floor of the bus. A painfully slow process ensued. The bus driver, herself quite overweight and apparently unfamiliar with the operation of the ramp, lumbered around the bus preparing the lift for use. Then, with a lot of beeping, the ramp folded up from the floor by the front door. Next, the bus driver went out and wheeled the man into the bus, positioning him just so and latching him in. Nobody on the bus was staring or acting visibly impatient; everyone, however, was watching. I felt bad for the guy because for him, the simple act of getting on and off a bus was a big ordeal; surely he didn’t relish holding up entire busloads of strangers at his coming and going. But I’d guess that pity is the last thing that man wanted from me or anyone.

The whole ordeal showcased how poorly we’ve done in America. First, why didn’t this guy, who was mobility challenged, have someone helping him? Unless it was a point of pride for him to travel solo, which it might have been, he would have benefitted from a hand. Second, why does the bus driver need to do this at a major transportation hub? Can we not afford to staff station agents who could help make such boardings as comfortable and efficient as possible? And third, what impact has the ADA had on smart transportation growth. To what level should the disabled be accommodated in public transportation? When do investments in para-transit pay off for all users?

I think these are all some tough questions that lay bare our priorities as a society. As we strive to build a better society from the shell of the one we’ve been bequeathed, perhaps we can start with the bus.

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