Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My First Experience with Public Transit in Lee County

Last month, I urged Sierra Club members throughout Florida to ditch the car and take some form of public transit during the holidays. I suggested that folks make it an event; meet with friends and take the bus to their favorite shopping mall for lunch and holiday buying. 

I would like to share my recent experience with the Lee Transit bus system here in Fort Myers, Florida. On December 28, 2010, fellow Sierra Club volunteer, BJ Gerald and I met at the Rosa Parks Transportation Center in downtown Ft. Myers and rode the bus to the Edison Mall.
It was my first experience riding the Lee Transit bus system and found the buses to be clean and the ride quite comfortable.  I was happy to see that the bus was not empty but well utilized.

It is wise to have a companion when you ride….not for safety but because you can share perspectives and note concerns that you might not have realized riding by yourself.  My traveling companion, BJ, spoke of safety issues at the bus stops, which I was unaware of at the time.  For example, there are two bus stops that we became acquainted with at the Edison Mall.  Neither bus stop was adjacent to a mall entrance, which would have been convenient and user-friendly. One bus stop was located on a busy side street next to an automobile service center and the other bus stop was located at the far end of the mall parking lot. 

Neither bus stop was appealing; there was no shelter and we were concerned about the safety of these bus stops at night. At one location, riders would have to trek some distance across the vast parking lot to the bus stop, which was adjacent to a vacant lot.  It certainly would not have appealed to me if I was a young mother carrying shopping bags with small children in tow.  I felt it would have posed an even greater danger if I was shopping at night.

Afterwards, I asked Lee Country transit authorities why the bus stops were situated at less desirable locations, rather than adjacent to the mall entrance, where they used to be.
I was told that Edison Mall and their corporate heads, the Simon Group, complained about the buses and insisted that the bus stops be moved further away from the mall entrances. Apparently the Simon Group does not acknowledge that bus riders are consumers too. If bus stops by the Edison Mall are not convenient and safe, riders will not be getting off to shop.  

 Submitted by Marti Daltry, Sierra Club Organizer, Ft. Myers, Florida