Former RBA bus riders miss the service
By Maria Amante firstname.lastname@example.org/648-3072 July 24, 2012 5:44PM
Updated: August 26, 2012 6:06AM
The lack of busing in Hammond has made life incredibly difficult for those who used to depend on the Regional Bus Authority’s services.
Lena Vuie is stranded. And furious.
“I’m doing as well as can be expected without transportation,” she says, angrily. “I haven’t been getting around.”
Vuie lives on disability and depends on a walker. She said it took her three hours to get to the grocery store and back on one 90 degree day in July. She had to juggle her bags on the way home.
“There ain’t no buses running, you gotta do what you gotta do,” she said.
She cannot afford a vehicle or a taxi service, she said. “I’m on a fixed income, when I get my check, my money’s already gone to bills.
“There is no option, there is no solution, I can’t even think of one.”
The only salvation for her, she said, is the return of the bus system.
“If they don’t put the buses back on we don’t have transportation,” Vuie said. “It’s hard, it’s just hard.”
Howard R. Wilson is a former easygo/RBA driver. He has not found work yet, and he doesn’t think any of his former colleagues have either.
“(We’re) trying to see if they were going to get something else going on over here but they never did, it’s the same thing,” Wilson said. “I’m sitting back and collecting unemployment and trying to get a couple things together and looking at other situations, still trying to get another job.”
But it’s his former passengers that he feels the worst for. “The riders and stuff, they have no way to get around,” Wilson said. “I really feel bad for everybody.”
With the system going through Hammond, Munster, Highland, Whiting and Hammond, Wilson said he’s disappointed the areas didn’t band together to create a new bus service.
“We have people that need to get to work, senior citizens that have to go to the doctor’s... it could be life-threatening,” he said. “It’s really terrible, they could have done something to keep these buses going. The cities just were like, forget about ‘em. And they just left them out there to hang.”
Local source of funding needed
Tim Brown, RBA director, said the group is working with the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to extend paratransit services and secure funding. But until a local funding source is secured, there is no chance RBA fixed-route service will return.
“There is no way to reestablish, even if, let’s say, a local funding source (came) this month, that would be enough to start things up,” Brown said. “(We’ll need) a minimum of four months and up to six months (reestablish service).”
There are several steps after funding is secured that the RBA would need to take before bus service would resume, placing bus service even further in the future.“The same process is applicable to anybody who wishes to extend services, though extension is probably easier to do,” Brown said, referring to East Chicago and Gary public transit systems extending into Hammond. “(You would need) less time, three months instead of six, but you’d still need local funding source. (They say), ‘Without local funding, we can’t do it either.’”
He said neither public transit system has enough money or capital to expand or service the void left by the RBA service. The RBA had 19 buses on the road, and neither Gary nor East Chicago has the units to spare.
Bruce Lang, of Hammond, also laments the bus cancellation.
Lang, a stay-at-home father to Joseph Hellems, would ride the bus to fill their days and look for work.
“It’s just the worst thing that happened to Hammond, if you ask me,” Lang said. “People, and I am one of them, really depended on those rides. It’s really cramping our style.”
In order to make a trip to River Oaks, the grocery store or pharmacy, Lang said he needs to walk, or he’s otherwise stranded.