Riders say new bus system leaves elderly behind

Bonnie, Ella Mae and Margaret are good friends. They all live at the same retirement center. They're neighbors that stay busy. They shop, go out to for lunch and play cards. They're sweet and kind, but don't under-estimate these ladies. They're a tough trio.

Ella and Margaret will speak their mind, and Bonnie, she's a fighter.

"I've fought cancer, and I have been fighting some other things," said Bonnie Brady, a resident of Inhofe Plaza.

Lately, she's been fighting a new battle over a change in city bus service. Right now, the bus stops right in front of the ladies apartment building. They all live at Inhofe Plaza at 66th near south Peoria.

They rely on the city bus to take them anywhere they need to go but soon their bus stop will move, that's because Tulsa Transit is moving to a faster bus system along Peoria called, Rapid Bus Transit or BRT.

"The bus will actually stop fewer places along the route and that will help the bus make its trip from north to south faster than it does now," said Bill Cartwright, the General Manager of Tulsa Transit.
Tulsa Transit's GM, Bill Cartwright says in some cases, the buses will come twice as often but that means the route will only be on main streets, meaning the stop at Inhofe Plaza will be no more.

"It just won't be possible with that route design, unfortunately," said Cartwright.

For Bonnie that's fighting words.

"The walking is just too much for a lot of us. It's too much for me," said Bonnie.

"That's quite a walk up there for us that are not able to walk a lot," said Ella McFarland, a resident of Inhofe Plaza.

Right now, the bus stops right on the property, but with the new BRT residents of Inhofe Plaza will have to walk down the parking lot, and up 66th Place up Peoria Avenue. If they want to go north on Peoria, then they have cross the busy Peoria Avenue. The whole journey is about two blocks from the retirement center's front door.

Bonnie has written several letters to Cartwright. He told the 2NEWS Investigators he's received them but says he can't change the route. He is vowing to put in a crosswalk for the residents so they can cross Peoria safely.

Also, he says there's always the Lift program. It's a bus service that assists people with disabilities or who have special transportation needs.

Bonnie isn't a fan of that solution, "Because it costs. It's expensive," she said.

It's $6 round trip. Bonnie says that's a lot for someone on a fixed income.

Still, Cartwright says there is a way to share the expense.

"With the buddy program, if you and your buddy are both qualified and able to ride the Lift and you're going from your facility, say to the shopping center to shop or to a movie or wherever you're going, and you're traveling together, you can ride for the price of one," said Cartwright.

While that can help in some situations, Ella says she often needs the bus to go to the doctor. In that case, she's traveling alone and would not share the expense with other, so the cost falls all on her.

Bonnie just wants the the city to keep the current Peoria route. She's fine with adding the BRT route, but she wants the old route to stay too. Even though that may not be in the cards, she has a lot more fight in her and isn't giving up anytime soon.

The Bus Rapid Transit system will cost $15 million and is paid for by a sales tax passed by Tulsa voters. It should be ready to go in three years.

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