Tammy’s Story: Getting Around Town on Transit

ART bus
Tammy is a single mother of a 19 month-old little girl. She is a “non-elective” bus rider, in that she rides the bus out of necessity rather than choice. Sometimes she is able to catch rides with her sister or friends, but the majority of her transportation needs are met by riding the city transit system.

“I always use public transportation,” she says. One of her greatest challenge in riding the bus is with her 19 month-old daughter. “It’s tough. When the bus pulls up, I have to take her out of her stroller and collapse the stroller—all while I’m holding her. Then I have to carry her and the stroller onto the bus, put her on my lap and try to hold her while holding the stroller so it doesn’t get in the way of other passengers. If it’s a long bus ride, she gets fidgety” This makes shopping with her daughter impossible, and she has to secure childcare before she can go to the grocery store.  “I don’t have enough hands to hold her, grocery bags and the stroller!”

She lost her job in an assisted-living facility, where she took care of special-needs adults and elderly patients. Unable to find a new job, she enrolled in the WorkFirst program. Work First Employment Services assists with training, work experience and supportive casework services to enable Work First Family Assistance recipients to become self-sufficient and self-supporting. This publicly funded program is administered by the Buncombe County Social Work Services. WorkFirst recipients are only eligible for 24 months (lifetime) of benefits that include modest cash assistance.

Through WorkFirst, she works at the Children First/CIS Family Resource Center at Emma (FRCE), assisting with administrative and organizational tasks. She works Mon-Thursday from 10:00 AM-4:00 PM. “In the house I’m living in now, I take the C bus, which picks me up about 5 minutes from my house and takes me straight to the FRCE. It goes everywhere—I like that bus!” The C bus is the only route that does not stop at the Asheville Transit Center between Coxe and Asheland avenues downtown.

No longer able to afford her current rent, she recently moved to public housing in the Lee Walker Heights Apartments. This move will also alter her bus route.  “In order to get to the FRCE by 10:00 a.m., I will have to catch the first bus at 7:30 a.m., and transfer to 2 more busses.” She will take 3 busses and travel for almost 3 hours to ride a distance of 5.2 miles.

When asked how she thinks this new route will affect how she travels with her daughter, she replies, “It means I will have to get her out in the cold or rain even earlier in the morning. The stop by our new apartment isn’t covered. We’re going to have to ride on more busses for longer times, and she will be even more restless.” Other changes she would like to see are seat belts for children, easy storage for bags and strollers, more covered bus stops, less complicated routes and more direct bus lines that don’t involve going to the transfer station.

Tammy’s story reflects many issues faced by non-elective bus riders. About 70 percent of city bus riders depend on the bus for their sole transportation needs. This need for improvements was instrumental in making the transit system a  priority issue in the February City Council retreat. Any changes made, including adding Sunday bus service, will depend largely on available funding.  Success Equation partner, Just Economics, helped organize local community leaders and “non-elective” bus riders to form the People’s Voice on Transportation Equality. This effort resulted in a 19 point  People’s Agenda on Transportation, which includes adding Sunday service, adding safety barriers and shelters, and additional areas of service based on needs for transportation to work, school, and basic necessities.

The Success Equation calls all community voices to unite around improved public transportation as a way to ensure that low-income families have the means to access jobs, education, child care, food, and health care. Together we can unite our community to reduce and prevent poverty so all children can thrive.

This story is part of a series collected by The Success Equation. Under the umbrella of Children First/CIS, the Success Equation is an initiative that unites community to reduce and prevent poverty so all children can thrive. Partners include the Cathedral of All Souls, Girl Scouts Peak to Piedmont, Junior League of Asheville, Just Economics, Innovative Partners International, Searchlight Consulting, Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation, and YWCA. To find out more go to find out more, go to www.childrenfirstcisbc.org.

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