City Beat: Plows cover bus-goers’ paths

By Shane Nicholson 
Managing Editor 

It’s a common theme anywhere in the Midwest: you clear your driveway or sidewalk and a plow will come along in short order to cover your work back up again.

It’s not always a city or county crew, either (and we won’t blame them for doing their jobs, because without them none of us would ever get to work). Just this week, a private plow had deposited a two-feet tall pile of snow at the end of my driveway, an hour after I’d finally uncovered it.

For most of us, it’s an inconvenience. But for some who rely on public transportation, it can be a very serious hazard.

A friend of mine and fellow downtown resident raised this concern with me last week after helping a mother with a stroller and another child in-tow across a residual snow bank left behind by the city’s plowing crews.

“I see this all across the west side of town,” he said. “All the time. You built these nice new bus stops and then you make it so people can’t even get to the bus.”

Worse still, he said, was the hydraulics on the RMTD buses that lower their entry decks below the level of the snow piles.

“You watch people climb up over two, three feet of snow and ice and then have to slide back down just to get on!” he exclaimed. “It’s ridiculous!”

I’d seen similar before myself but never really thought much of it. The last time I relied on public transport I lived in the south, where snow is largely a myth and when it does actually fall it tends to melt in a matter of hours.

But in Rockford, we have designated bus stops that people have to utilize in order to ride our buses. And those people are being put in dangerous situations to climb aboard their ride, either by navigating the snow mounds or boarding buses away from the designated stops.

In an email my concerned friend shared, RMTD says it “does not have the resources to clear all the bus stops and from time to time when we get a number of complaints we will clear some of the stops.”

Again, the stops were built because of an identified need. Persons riding the bus have to utilize the stops. Yet we can’t ensure that the stops are maintained or even safe. This is akin to saying, “Well, we built this new building for the city because we needed the new building for the city, but we only have enough money to have the power on half of the time.”

We can’t simply pin this on RMTD, too. As the email continues, “However, it is short-lived because the plows will then come and plow in the stops again. We also find that even if we clear the stops getting to the stops is impossible because sidewalks are not cleared.”

It’s a city problem and a RMTD problem, and it’s a problem that needs to be solved before a resident is seriously injured or worse simply trying to board the bus.

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