Dear Mayor Stadola
This is an open letter, as I wrote it, to Mayor Mark Stadola regarding his recent Car-Free Campaign in which he challenged area residents to go without using their own vehicles and instead, using public transportation. This is an annual campaign in which this year marked the second of such. Last year, the mayor received criticism as he apparently took his own car to work during his campaign period. This year, he took it from Kavanaugh downtown, a mere five miles that offers a direct route.
Dear Mayor Stadola,
Your recent “Car-free Challenge” campaign was laughable, at best. It was one that myself, as well as many people I know, were unable to participate in due to the gross lack of adequate public transportation in the Little Rock area.
I am from a one-car family. My husband and I both have full-time jobs and we are parents of an 8-year-old daughter. Both my husband and I have used public transportation as we agree that it is a more efficient mode of transportation. However, over the summer, it became abundantly clear to us exactly how substantially CAT does not cover our needs nor the needs of many of your citizens.
You took the bus from Kavanaugh area to downtown Little Rock last week. Good for you. I hear that’s better than you did last year. But I, sir, challenge you to take the bus from where a majority of Little Rock area residents live: outside of the downtown area to somewhere that is not downtown.
Allow me to provide you some specific examples of how deplorable of an option public transportation is for my own family. Granted, we live in North Little Rock, but I still think this example suits my point.
I live within a few feet of the Levy bus route and it is partially why we chose to live where we do. My daughter attends school on the North Little Rock/Sherwood border. We chose this school because it was close to where my husband formerly worked. There are several major employers and retailers in this area, including Gander Mountain, Cardinal Health, Sam’s Club, and (ironically) several auto dealerships. But, this area is only accessible via car. If I chose to take the bus, I must first catch it here outside my house and take it to Pershing. There, I must wait 15 minutes for the McCain bus to take me to the Mall or to Best Buy or WalMart on McCain. From there, I must walk down one of the busiest streets in North Little Rock in order to get to one of the largest employers in Sherwood. This is a street where residents, 6 years after the direction change took effect, still drive the wrong way. I refuse to walk or bike that route, sir, and adamantly refuse to do that with a young child in tow… especially since there are so few sidewalks outside the downtown area out here.
Another example is my current employment situation. I work downtown, actually, a block from the River Cities Depot. Yet, my hours are from 10pm until 6am. Now, I will say that getting home is not a problem and never has been via public transportation. I actually would make it home close to the same time as I would if I drove myself. However, my challenge comes from getting to work.
I would have to take the last Levy route downtown, which passes my house just before 8:30pm. This route however, stops at the bus garage in downtown North Little Rock. So, I must exit the bus near 7th and Maple in Downtown North Little Rock (in the dark, mind you) and walk to 6th and Maple and wait 15 minutes for the Tour Trolley. I take that around Little Rock and must exit the trolley at 3rd and Scott, because the trolley doesn’t stop at the depot. From 3rd and Scott, I must walk to Capitol and Scott (which is lengthy, especially alone and in the dark) to get to work.
I mentioned to you that we realized the full extent of the lack of transportation this summer. See, my husband lost his job on the North Little Rock/Sherwood border and needed to find one that was on a route. This subsequently left out any possibility of him working anywhere down Cantrell (for example, At&t on Ranch, which used to be on the bus route), anywhere near the Promenade, which is growing equally as fast as Maumelle, and has several jobs available, or even anywhere north of McCain on JFK, where a majority of businesses in North Little Rock are.
My husband now works in Maumelle. We were thrilled to learn that the bus line stops directly in front of his work, but were horribly disappointed to see the schedule he would have to keep in order to do this regularly. To get to Maumelle for the start of his shift at 8:30, he would need to take the 6:00 Levy bus (Remember, I leave work at 6am and well, I have a child so already, we’ve hit a roadblock as I can’t very well leave my child at home, even if it is for 20 minutes.. but let’s just play hypotheticals here..) to the River Center depot. He would arrive there at 6:45. He would then hop onto one of the TWO daily routes to Maumelle (isn’t this the fastest-growing Little Rock suburb?), which would be the one that leaves the River Center at 7am. This route runs notoriously late (as my husband currently catches it at Crystal Hill) so he probably has some leeway in there in case the 6am route is late. He would be scheduled to arrive in front of his employer at around 7:45 am.
In order to get home, my husband would take one of the three routes that leave Maumelle in the evenings. Since he gets off work at 5pm, just like most of America, he must wait 45 minutes for the next bus. He would arrive at the River Center depot at about 6:30 pm and then he would catch the next available bus to Levy, which leaves the depot at 7:15 pm. My husband would not get home until 7:45 pm if he were to take public transportation full-time.
Mayor Stadola, that’s 14 hours away from home in order to work an 8 hour shift. Nearly two hours of those 14 hours is physically waiting for a bus.
And so, Mr. Stadola, next time you challenge your residents to take the bus, I challenge you to take a route other than through downtown Little Rock. Maybe then, you’ll see why so few people take the bus and why so many residents who do not have vehicles remain unemployed.
North Little Rock, AR