Bus stop, route changes a challenge for seniors

Wilhelmina Brown, 87, makes her way to the laundry room at the Grand Oak apartments in West Ashley. She’s concerned about how a bus stop and route changed will affect her and the rest of her community.

A bus stop or route change can be tough on people who rely on public transportation, especially those who are elderly.

Wilhelmina Brown, 87, is one of many seniors in the Grand Oak Apartments in West Ashley who are upset and confused about their bus stop being moved.

For years, the stop was in front of their building on Magwood Drive, but now it will be moved to Ashley River Road, about 400 feet away.

“I walk with a walker,” Brown said. “This is going to be a little difficult.”

The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority previously announced some bus stop and route changes, which will begin Sunday. The cash-strapped CARTA, after a comprehensive study and four public meetings, cut some bus stops and portions of routes.

CARTA officials have said that only stops and route sections that weren’t heavily used were eliminated. No entire routes were slashed, but up to 5 percent of stops were cut on the longer routes.

Thomas Kistner, 81, president of the Grand Oak Tenants Association, said residents were in an uproar earlier this week when they thought they would have to walk several blocks to reach a bus stop. Learning the stop was moved only about 400 feet did little to assuage their anxiety.

Kistner said moving a bus stop 400 feet may not sound like a big deal for many people, but the new stop will require Grand Oak residents and others to cross Ashley River Road at a timed light, he said. That’s hard for someone using a walker.

“Bear in mind some of us are super-seniors, in our mid- to late-80s,” he said.

The bus route also has been tweaked, Kistner said, and people are unsure if the new route will continue to take them where they want to go.

“There’s a lot of confusion,” he added.

CARTA spokesman Daniel Brock CARTA representatives are going to meet with Grand Oak residents Friday morning to explain the changes to them. And they are willing to do that for other groups.

Brock also said the current bus route is a one-way loop, so many people have to ride longer to get where they need to go. The new route travels along Ashley River Road in both directions — a change that will allow more direct trips.

Brown said she relied on her bus to get to Wal-Mart, and the $2 fare was affordable.

She’s eligible for CARTA’s Tel-A-Ride, a curb-to-curb service for people with disabilities, but that’s more expensive, she said. Last week she used Tel-A-Ride to get to a medial appointment downtown and the round-trip cost $10.

Kistner also said residents didn’t know until last week that the changes were coming. He knows there was a public meeting in February in West Ashley, but it was held at John Wesley United Methodist Church on Savannah Highway, a long way from Grand Oak.

Many seniors can’t get out to public meetings, he said.

Before the changes were put in place, the residents were pushing for a new bus shelter at their stop, Kistner said, so the news that the stop was moved — and no shelter was being built — was especially upsetting.

Officials shouldn’t just consider finances when they make bus changes, he said. “You have to include the human element.”

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.