Editorial: Public transportation still a problem

As much as motorists complain about the cost of gasoline, taxes, tolls, insurance, traffic, upkeep, and the myriad problems of driving a car, at least they can usually get where they have to go on time.

Those of us who, for physical or other reasons, have to depend on public transportation, are at the mercy of whatever we can get within a certain timeframe and, hopefully, a location near us.

By now, everyone has had a chance to try the new Rockford Mass Transit District (RMTD) bus schedule. Some have made adjustments in their personal routine, recognizing they have to leave earlier, walk farther, maybe even go out of their way to get where they want to go, and sometimes wait for a connecting bus to come along. Others have made different arrangements or given up on the system altogether.

But some of us have no choice but to make do as best we can. For instance, on Saturday morning, Feb. 12, I had a personal appointment at 9 a.m. Fortunately, the location was right on the East State bus route. However, after the appointment, I got out about 9:45 and then walked down a few blocks to Highland Square, where there is a bus shelter. My next destination was The Rock River Times office, where I would work on legal notices. But according to the schedule, the next bus headed downtown would not be along until 10:40. Oh, yes, there was a 10:10 bus listed—but that’s only Monday through Friday, and this was Saturday.

After almost an hour, the bus finally showed up and took me downtown. After doing an errand at the post office at 401 S. Main St. (no more Broadway bus going that way—had to walk there and back), I worked most of the day. Finally, I was ready to leave and do some grocery shopping on the way home. I took the 4:30 School Street bus, which goes by Aldi’s and Walgreens at Central and Auburn. On the same bus I met an elderly lady friend who wanted to shop with me, so we got off together at about 5 p.m. We both know that the last School Street bus leaves the terminal at 5:15 p.m., so we planned to call a cab later.

After we finished shopping at Aldi’s and Walgreens, I went out and called for a cab. It was a little after 6 p.m., and the dispatcher said it would be “a few minutes.” Fortunately, it was a mild evening. We stood outside the store with our shopping carts and waited. And waited—and waited some more. We kept our eyes peeled on the street, now dark, for any sign of a cab. Finally, after about 45 minutes, we saw the taxi coming. As the driver opened his van and came to load our bags of groceries, he explained that the dispatcher had only just given him the call “a couple minutes ago.” What kind of system is this? If that’s the dispatcher’s idea of “a few minutes,” I’d hate to find out what he considers a long time. I finally got home close to 7 p.m., and my friend a little later.

Meanwhile, the weather turned cold again, and there is the weekly joy of walking five blocks to West State Street, then standing out in the freezing, icy wind until the bus comes along. The School Street bus doesn’t connect with the Seventh Street, and if I want to be on time to the other job, I have to do it this way. Brrr! Even with the bright sunshine, there’s a wind chill down to zero, and the bus is five minutes late. I have to fish out the bus pass from my purse—even with gloves on, my fingers are nearly frozen.

Spring can’t come too soon for us bus passengers.

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