Mobilizing Newark

Tonight, I delivered the following remarks to city council:

" We all need to go places. Whether our destination is to and from work, school, the store, or even a routine doctor’s appointment; the ability or inability to travel can free or imprison an individual. Despite the crucial nature of this particular issue, I don’t see enough being done by the City of Newark to demonstrate that it recognizes such. Yes, I realize that our city transit was merged with the county, but does that mean we’ve completely washed our hands of the obligation to take care that our fellow citizens can remain mobile? Is there nothing that the city can do to improve same said mobility?

First and foremost, the people of Newark lacking reliable transportation are harmed by the absence of an adequate public transit service. For whatever reason, they don’t have a car, and that serves as a hindrance to them finding a living wage job. In a cruel twist of fate, that hurdle to finding a better job – or a job at all – prevents them from being able to buy a car to begin with. Don’t these people deserve an escape from the abyss of poverty? Would it be too much trouble for our city and/or county to give serious consideration to a fixed-route busing system?

Do we think that it is acceptable to ignore this mounting demand for something more than the current framework? No community can thrive if every person is left to their own devices or made to rely on a service which requires you to schedule a ride days in advance. Life is far too unpredictable for this to work out in the long-term. What the people require is a service that they can count on being available when the need arises.

When it comes to walking around town, every one of us knows that there are some parts where you are gambling with your safety all because you are forced to choose between walking on the grass – often through someone’s yard – and walking along the side of the road. How can our city be appealing to any newcomers if pedestrians can’t safely walk about? Just like with the lack of transit, our lack of sidewalks can be prohibitive for job-seekers. Furthermore, it endangers our children; unless we are implicitly declaring that no one with children is welcome in these areas.

Yes, providing more sidewalks means more sacrifice. Some – businesses and residents alike - will have to lose a section of their lawn, but I would like to think that it is better to lend a relatively small slice of land to the public’s benefit than to risk having children play dodge-a-car each time they try to leave their house. Wouldn’t our collective conscience be clearer for helping to avert this dangerous duel between man and vehicle? Or are we content with rolling dice on this one?

If doing something to enhance the mobility of Newark’s citizenry can’t be motivated by compassion alone, then we ought to examine how the present situation hurts our local economy. Would it not be better for business – particularly our small businesses – if consumers were able to safely ride a bus or walk through a series of sidewalks to and from these establishments? Again, if more people had some form of reliable transportation there would be more consumers, period. Invest today in the necessary improvements for our ability to get around and it will make for a more prosperous tomorrow.

This is a transportation issue, a safety issue, as well as a jobs issue. It’s also a streets issue when you look at the big picture, since busing services leads to less traffic congestion, thusly reducing the wear and tear on our roadways. If we want this city to grow and to succeed, we must be serious about transportation. Fortunately, I am hopeful that our conversation here has only begun. "

After I was done with my prepared remarks, I deviated from my usual routine of leaving the podium once I was finished. Instead, I chose to make a few comments about what happened last week and called for more civility in our debates moving forward. During the miscellaneous comment section for Council, Councilwoman Floyd pointed out that the United Way - in concert with another organization - is planning on trying to provide busing services in sort of a fixed-route way for the citizens of Newark. Councilman Guthrie commented that the city and/or county ought to look into contracting with COTA. Again, I'm glad to see that this debate is alive and well.

Stay tuned...


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