How very appropriate and providential that the select bus service display was held in a place of faith, Temple Israel on East 75th Street. Public transit is by far the safest travel mode, a life, health and planet-saver—goals shared by creeds of every faith. It was providential in that I picked up a message at the synagogue’s information table that succinctly and powerfully relates to this initiative.
As a veteran public transit activist and critic who is especially focused on buses, I have qualms about the “select bus” plan for First and Second avenues, as seen in various diagrams displayed by the MTA in the temple’s auditorium. Might all special project funds go instead to help reduce drastic cuts in existing subway and bus service? The hoped-for select bus’s “speedier ride” worries this crusader for safety first. So do designated street lanes for bus riders and cyclists. Will lanes be observed? Will cyclists stop for the light? Stores lament being cut off from curb access. And what about First and Second avenues’ washboard surface conditions, especially for speedier buses, which also have street level doors?
The MTA representatives there didn’t know if the new model of articulated bus will have a quieter climate control system and kneeling step alarm than current models. They didn’t know such toxic conditions have plagued riders and drivers for 11 years, or that some horns are way too loud, and some lighting excessive. Nor did they know whether the new model’s heating and cooling systems would finally be controlled. Like Jean Arthur wryly mused in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, “It’s kind of a curse to be so wised up!”
The providential aspect to this event was finding an invaluable intergenerational action-oriented Passover message on the temple’s information table. Part of a flyer describing a service for “tots,” siblings, grandparents, mothers and fathers also included a mini-sermon with universal application in the prevention of human suffering—yes, in seemingly small matters like the unhealthy, uncomfortable and unsafe bus ride.
“How does God make things happen? With little hands, and big hands. With young hands and old hands. With your hands,” the flyer said.
We must remember this!
Let’s include middle-sized/middle-aged hands. Too often, believers feel praying for someone or something is sufficient. Using our hands to make things happen means using our voices and our pens. The noisy bus might have been quieted had initial protests continued. Does select bus service concern you? The West Side may be next. Make your voice heard on a public level, as in letters to the editor and to me. Sure, it also helps to contact elected officials, civic groups, the MTA and the New York City Department of Transportation’s outreach coordinator for bus rapid transit, Kate Mikuliak, at 212-839-6429 or email@example.com.
Also check www.nyc.gov/brt.
But again, most policymakers, including journalists, transit advocacy groups and bloggers, know little about the bus experience because they only take the subway.
Attention must be paid! And yes, to safe traveling conditions for pedestrians who observe traffic laws and bring only themselves into this high-density city. Just a few examples of what all-age hands can do to help bring about a life, health and planet-saving world. Justice would be better served, too. The possibilities are endless when all-age prayers are followed by action whenever possible, not only at Passover and Easter time.
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