We were so impressed by Southington for Transportation’s Feb. 13 informational meeting at the library that we have been talking about it in the newsroom ever since. It was so refreshing to see a group of local residents and town officials coming together to selflessly solve a public problem. We think that’s what Southington does best.
This group discussed a three phase project to bring CTtransit buses onto Southington’s streets. We were surprised when commission on disabilities member George Pohorilak pointed out that Southington is the only town of this size (approximately 45,000 residents) without public transportation. Pohorilak talked about his efforts in vain to verify it, but he contends that Southington might be the only town of its size in the nation that doesn’t have public transportation. That’s a sobering thought.
For most of us, this isn’t a problem. With more vehicles than houses on the Grand List, most Southington residents have very few issues with transportation or commuting. But, as the group pointed out, some residents—particularly the disabled and the elderly—have very real issues with transportation. It was great to see local advocates argue so persuasively for our residents with the greatest needs.
Of course, we urge all transportation advocates to be patient. Even when the first phase brings buses to Queen Street and West Street, participation numbers might not signal success right away. Southington has another problem that will hinder this transportation route: sidewalks.
It’s been almost 15 years since the Observer first argued that the town’s sidewalks—or lack of sidewalks–was an issue. Sadly, not much has changed in the last decade and a half. We do note that now is a bad time to ask for a huge investment in sidewalk infrastructure. In the middle of a very real state financial crisis, our town officials are charged with watching every penny that they spend. On the other hand, when the public need is so great, we feel that Southington’s officials can get really creative about solving problems.
Placing bus stops on Queen Street and West Street may not be the answer for most disabled residents. How can one use a bus if you can’t get to it? Queen Street sidewalks are totally disconnected from most Southington homes. We certainly can’t see a wheelchair-bound resident trying to navigate the intersection at Oak Hill Cemetery to try to reach a bus stop on Queen Street. Even on West Street, sidewalk coverage is still pretty sporadic. Designing a bus stop for disabled residents on either one of these streets is like building a handicapped apartment on the top floor without installing an elevator. What good is it if the ones that need it can’t get to it?
We know that times are tough. We know that every penny is scrutinized by the Board of Finance and the Town Council, but we urge them to solve this problem. Perhaps a sidewalk connecting the rail-trail on Lazy Lane to Queen Street might be an affordable start? At the very least, it will offer a possible connection between the center of town and the bus stops for the more physically-abled disabled residents.
The good news is that this problem will lessen as the second and third phases bring buses to downtown Southington, Plantsville, and more. We are not sure what goes into the planning of these bus stops, but a stop at the Calendar House and the Arc of Southington wouldn’t be too big of a detour from the proposed routes. We hope both stops are considered, so that the ones that would most benefit from the buses have access to them. Keep up the good work.
To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.