That’s true. Proven by facts. And science. And a lot of first-hand experience, since I kind of enjoy public transport.
Columbia is breaking my heart, though.
These past couple days, I’ve been taking the bus into downtown and walking to the newsroom. Because school is not currently in session, however, the loop 200 feet from my apartment complex isn’t running.
The next closest stop? A mile away.
The first day, I left my house at 6:15 a.m. It was still pretty dark out, and pretty cold, but I was wearing layers, gloves, a hat and wool socks. I wasn’t too worried about the cold, and knew I would be at the bus in no time.
Turns out I had underestimated the city on what they had done in wake of the Polar Vortex.
Columbia, for whatever reason, doesn’t know how to function in the snow. It never really made sense to me: Is the city surprised that there are winter storms? We’re in the Midwest! Of course it snows here! I’m from Texas and I know that! Why are we always completely thrown for a loop and unable to handle less than six inches of snow?
If I wanted to try my luck walking on the street, I had to brave an ice-coated shoulder, covered with a light dusting of snow. The road conditions still weren’t awesome, and I didn’t entirely trust the early morning drivers, so I trudged through the snow. The city has shoveled snow, icy and slush off Grindstone Parkway and up onto the sidewalk, more than a foot high in some places. My boots were soaked through to my socks. I tripped and almost face-planted at least once. I was frustrated and unhappy and cold.
I had to cross over the highway using a very narrow shoulder that was half covered with plowed snow and ice. Terrifying, to say the least.
The next day, I left my house at 7:50 a.m. I wore my rain boots and packed a nicer pair of shoes for the newsroom. Since it was lighter out, I could more safely walk on the shoulder of the road. It was icy, but it wasn’t snow halfway to my knee. I made much better time, and I didn’t feel like crying, so that’s a plus. The bus was 20 minutes late, most likely due to a combination of morning rush hour and the snowy conditions, but I would rather be waiting at a bus stop than hiking through snow banks.
There are two things I would like to mention about my bus adventures. Firstly, never underestimate the power of a pair of muck boots. Secondly, Columbia needs to get itself together.
What about the residents who can’t make that hike? If they live further, or they have kids with them, or they have a bunch of groceries? What if they aren’t as able bodied and can’t navigate a narrow, icy shoulder of a highway?
One of the other passengers on my bus Thursday morning was in a wheelchair. He had to make a transfer, but couldn’t get off at his normal stop because the sidewalks and ramps were neither scooped nor salted. I watched, mesmerized, as our driver coordinated with the driver of the man’s next bus. Both buses pulled into a side street at a t-stop so the man could use the ramps on both buses in the safety of a plowed street. It worked out just fine, but I couldn’t help but wonder what the man, or other passengers, did when conditions were less than ideal.
I like public transportation. I really do. The DART system in Dallas has received many a dollar from my wallet, and I’ve taken it from the stop around the corner from my house into the downtown shopping district and even all the way to the Dallas Zoo. If I can go to the zoo on Dollar Tuesdays and take the DART down and back, all for less than $5, that seems like a good deal to me.
I think the reason I am able to enjoy buses and trains, though, is because they’re accessible to me. I don’t have to worry about ramps or ice or huge puddles or anything getting in my way. It might not be enjoyable to trek through snow drifts, but I can do it. Even a winter storm can’t stop me from making it a mile to the bus stop.
But not everyone can just pull on boots and hike a mile. Assuming so is ableist and exclusive.
Downtown sidewalks are manageable and mostly clear. Most campus sidewalks are shoveled by campus facilities employees and student staff members. It takes time, effort and money, but people can walk to Starbucks and Shake’s without snow shoes or cross-country skis.
This is my plea for the City of Columbia to salt its residential sidewalks. Contrary to popular belief, there are still students who live in the dozens of apartment complexes all over the city, even when school is not in session. We need a way to get to the bus, get to the store. Students are told nearly every day by most faculty members to push ourselves out of the “campus bubble.”
It’s hard to do that when everything outside that bubble is covered in a foot of dirty, icy snow.
Author’s Note: After I published this post, my good friend and co-worker Elise texted me to ask if I was writing a story on the topic of Columbia’s sidewalks and snow procedures. I was inspired, and have started to look into the topic as a story for the Missourian. Just wanted to let y’all know that the post came first and sparked a deeper, broader look into how people get around in the snow, rather than just me getting pissed that my feet were wet when I got to work (as true as that might be). Keep an eye out for updates!