Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shame on Charleston - Going to the Doctor

When we have to go to the doctor, most of us hop in our car and voile, 10 maybe 20 minutes later, we're there. The simple act of going to the doctor or hospital is easy for some. For others, not so much. You should have seen what we saw this morning.

As many of you know, we have given up the car to ride a marginalized public transit system here in Charleston. We both pretty much enjoy riding the buses. Well, except when they're late. OK, and also when one has to walk 70 miles crossing hundreds of vacant PARKING SPACES across miles of asphalt to get to any particular destination (which is pretty typical considering the current methodology behind city/town planning). It's especially degrading to be forced to trample through the nice landscaping our cities, towns and businesses provide, with some of your tax dollars no less, because no one bothered to place any kind of sidewalks, or pathways for the ingress/egress of pedestrians and users of public transportation. But, again, what we saw this morning trumps all of that - although it does have to do with sidewalks and pathways.

Anyway, CARTA busses sport a mechanized suspension system that lowers when the handicapped must board. With a loud swooshing sound similar to what you'd hear when the air brakes are pumped on a 16 wheeler, the right side of the bus lowers to the ground as an extension slides out from underneath the bus allowing a wheelchair to roll straight on. Then the whole platform rises up, slides back into the side of the bus and the wheelchair is then easily maneuvered back toward the reserved handicapped seating area.

This morning a gentleman boarded in a wheelchair. Luckily he had two young men with him to assist because he was very old. We all rode into Mount Pleasant. Near the hospital on the opposite side of Highway 17 there is a stop. Right before it, one of the young men pulled the chord and the bus pulled to the side of the highway to the stop. The bus lowered and the two young fellows assisted their elder off the bus. They were very careful and amazingly gentle with the old man. However, as we observed them try to ease the man off the bus we realized they were rolling the wheelchair onto the grass-filled PIT that makes up the entry and exit point at that specific stop. As if that wasn't bad enough, the trio would then have to cross six lanes over a heavily traveled highway during rush hour to get to the other side where the hospital can be seen off in the distance (they would have to walk).

All we can say is shame on the Town of Mt. Pleasant, CARTA, the City of Charleston and the hospital, too, for placing the handicapped and ill at risk by failing to outfit an essential area with the appropriate infrastructure.

Look, as we write this, putting together "a nice way" to deliver a little anger and humility with respectable words, we are quite aware of the fact that we are younger, healthy and still able to trample through local commercial businesses' landscaping (sorry guys). Although we are able to put up with a sub-par public transit system - the elderly, sick or handicapped are not.

If any money is spent at all on public transit in the near future we suggest a part of it be thrown at accessibility initiatives. We've been routing for increased routes and more busses. However, there are clearly other needs as well.

As witnessed this morning, not everyone gets to the hospital by being delivered at its front door.

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