This morning I had an appointment with my GP. It was really necessary, since I’ve been sick for almost five weeks. My landlady was able to give me a ride into downtown this morning, and from there I could take the bus to my doctor’s office, which is in the next town over.
It shouldn’t need to be this complicated. See, my street is right on a bus line. That bus goes straight into downtown, which is where I catch the bus to my doctor’s office. Easy enough, right?
Because a few months ago, the regional transit authority decided to revise the routes. For the route that goes by my house, they didn’t actually change any of the streets or anything–but apparently they instituted a new policy to eliminate all stops between downtown Northampton and Holyoke (two towns over, 9.5 miles away). I live two miles from downtown Northampton, and even though the bus route goes right past my street, more than half the drivers will no longer stop there. I don’t know what the deal with this new policy is. I mean, you’re saving what, two minutes tops by refusing to stop?
So that leaves me with only the option of walking home from downtown. Two miles doesn’t sound so bad, but it’s along a busy highway with no sidewalk or shoulder. There have been several fatal car v. bicycle collisions there, and pedestrians are even less visible to drivers than bicyclists. Add to that the fact that I am physically disabled. My body literally cannot handle a two-mile walk most days. I run a very real risk of having my muscles give out and collapsing on the side of the road.
I could probably qualify for paratransit, but that costs three times the normal bus fare. They also require you to book the trip 48 hours in advance, which wouldn’t have worked since this was a last-minute appointment.
So today, I tried taking the bus home, hoping I’d get a sympathetic driver. In that regard, the cane is sometimes useful. I think they ought to stop for anyone who needs that stop, but I’m not going to complain if I get a cripple sympathy stop, either. But the driver today was a huge jerk and refused to stop anywhere vaguely near my street. So I had to go all the way to Holyoke. Instead of staying on that bus for the return trip, I waited an hour, hoping I’d get a different driver. No such luck. Same guy, still wouldn’t stop. So then I wound up back in downtown Northampton again. In utter desperation–I was literally about to burst into tears in the middle of town–I texted my landlady. Luckily, she was able to take off from work for a few minutes and run me home, for which I was immensely grateful. It just shouldn’t be necessary. When I moved to this apartment, I specifically sought out somewhere that was accessible by public transit–and it was, when I moved in. But now I literally can’t go anywhere on my own, so I don’t leave the house. I looked into moving somewhere closer to town so I’d have better access to public transit, but everything was miles out of my price range. So I’m trapped here.
Meanwhile, all the politicians in Boston, when asked about improving public transit, talk about a multi-million dollar project to expand the Orange Line. Western Mass never gets mentioned. I want to shake them and say, “Look, asshole, let me tell you a thing. I’ve used public transit in Boston, and it’s fucking great already. Meanwhile, I can’t even get to a fucking doctor’s appointment out here. I can’t go grocery shopping. I can’t get to the pharmacy. But yeah, let’s definitely sink all the transit funding into improving a system that already works instead of fixing a system that doesn’t. ‘Cause nothing west of Boston actually exists. We’re just motherfucking unicorns out here.”