Interview: Transportation Options in SC (Transcript)

Intro/Boris: It’s been 10,511 days since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed and you are parked in the Access Aisle.

Boris: Welcome to the Access Aisle! Today, I’ve got two guests with me to talk about some of the transportation-related issues facing South Carolinians with disabilities. Joining me on my good friends, Corrine Reed from the South Carolina Livable Communities Alliance and Justin Williams, a Columbia resident with a visual disability and expertise in navigating the ins and outs of accessible transportation. So let’s just dive right in, just can you tell us a little bit about how your disability affects you getting around in Colombia?

Justin: I have a visual disability, so my disability impacts my transportation and getting around in that I cannot drive a car, unlike anyone else can who can see. So I have to depend on other modes and means of transportation in order to go from point A to point B. Anything from walking to catch an Uber to? I’ve been on the bus, I’ve taken paratransit and still do use DART from time to time. I lived cabs and I have gotten rides from people.

B: You mentioned Paratransit can you tell us a little bit about what her transit is for those that may not know?

J: So basically what happens is they come and pick you up, you get on, you pay and someone drives you to your stop, and it’s a shared ride, so you don’t know exactly when you’re gonna get there. So if I might get picked up at 11 in the morning and I might not get some place till 12:30 or 12, o’clock, or I might get there very quickly, they might drive me straight there and I might get there at 11:10 or 11:15 or whatever, so you can go straight there, but you don’t really know. So if your stop is normally say 10 minutes away, you might go straight there or it might take you 30 to 40 minutes to get there – you don’t know. It’s a shared system, so you really can’t plan anything. So if I were to go home in the evenings, with DART I can’t plan anything really until I get there. I’ve had people ask “when you gonna get home”. Well, I’m not sure. Well, can you estimate not really, not so that it matters. I could sort of estimate, but just be okay with me being extremely wrong.

B: Okay, so what is your preferred method of getting around?

J: Mostly Uber. Uber or Lyft. Because it’s almost, it’s not like having your own car, but almost. There’s a little bit of limitation to it, but you can use your trusty iPhone and get an Uber ride at just, you can get an Uber ride within five minutes, usually. And then go on to, to, to your location. It’s all on the phone. It is 48% or so less than a cab, so it for example, let’s just say, a 17 over in a 17 Cabernet, it’s about a 9, override 20 car as a bride between the 20 car is an Uber ride between 11 and 12 is just roughly. So it’s about 40% maybe more than that, cheaper except when it searches that’s different, but other than that, brand list, it’s a lot quicker now, you’re gonna ask, in trouble, if you’re gonna really… If you gotta be grocery shopping. There’s the thing about Uber in life if you don’t know whose car you’re getting into. So they’re usually fairly clean and use got most us pretty neat or whatever, but you really don’t know. Sometimes, I got stuff in the front seat you do. If you were to have eight or nine bags of groceries for me, that wouldn’t be ideal because you wouldn’t wanna be leaving if you accidentally leave anything in the car. It’s 15. does for them to come back and you don’t know if you have in a room to put all that stuff in there, so you… So it would be a little bit less than ideal. I would try it though, if I could, that would be the only thing that I can think of that’s sort of A minus or if you have a lot of stuff to carry, but even then, I would still try it if I had a grocery shop and I ordered it on mine, I still go pick it up. an Uber. And just sort of hope for the best that would just be something you might run into. But outside of that, who were lift is great. That is… That really helped me out a lot because it gives me the all those against an independence.

B: Okay, so Corrine, can you tell us a little bit about what’s unique about South Carolina’s transportation infrastructure?

Corrine: So, South Carolina is transportation set up, so we are the fourth largest state owner of roads in the country about 70% of a road or state-owned, if you counted based on lane miles.

So for example, a five-lane road that’s a mile that counts is more lane miles than a two-lane road, if that makes sense. And so because of that, a lot of infrastructure changes have to go all the way up through those bureaucratic ranks to all the way up to S dot even if it’s like a neighborhood Road or something like that, which leads to a lot of issues where things aren’t really being maintained as quickly as the locals with love.

So as far as getting a side well and lights and… Or bike lanes crosswalks those things can be especially challenging for people, for people to make happen in their communities. Another issue that we have is that… So we have a one-year repaving list in South Carolina and what that means is from the time the Department of Transportation, so D.O.T. decides it’s time for this road to get repaved. Cities and municipalities often only have a year or less to collect public input to decide what they’re going to do before it’s time for a ball to go on the ground to put that in perspective. Georgia, North Carolina, both have a three-year repaving list, so they have much more time to collect information about who is using this road, how are they using it, are they driving are they walking are they biking are they using sidewalks. And so, that’s another barrier that we experience. What we are also seeing is that often times people just don’t have sidewalks or other, just basic accommodations in their communities, and as a result of how our infrastructure is set up, we are number one in traffic fatalities in the country and about 15% of those are bicycles and pedestrians.

That what we’re wanting to do is really with the SC Livable Communities, Alliance, we’re wanting to change that through what we’re calling a Complete Streets policy, so the streets will be complete if they don’t just accommodate those who can drive but also everyone else who’s using the road too.

B: Okay so, so piggy backing off of that, Justin, what has your experience been as a pedestrian, trying to navigate South Carolina’s roads?

J: Well, for me, I just, I, I use… I’ve walked all over downtown. So it’s down to a one down to a column. Yes, sometimes streets break up, sometimes they beat sometimes there’s no sidewalk in some areas of the city. Even some of the areas that I’ve been… I’m trying to think of some of the street Center.

Sometimes the sidewalks blend into the curve so you’re like, “Is that a side walk or not? So it’s kind of like, well, the sidewalk doesn’t really begin at the corner, so you end up either walking on the grass and doing trees or… What I do is step out into the traffic and walk alongside the cars until sometimes I’m in the middle of the kinda get a straight away, then that you go back on to the side wall.

Sometimes I see that that can happen in a tenanted I don’t know how the driving itself, has been affected. I know the roads, I feel the roads pretty bumpy when I’m riding, but I don’t know, I’m trying to think if I’ve had any interactions that a lot of it is the infrastructure of the son walks and the streets aren’t aren’t always like it should be. You wanna make sure you also have something to tell you, when you’re gonna walk into the street the… And you used your…

B: Can you talk a little bit about your wife?

J: That cane is something that lets people see that you have a visual disability. I use mine pretty much to go everywhere and I’m feeling for sidewalks, I’m feeling for its co. They call it the bump and adjust method. That’s one of the jokes that you hear, but you’re feeling for… Sidewalks you’re feeling for changes, is that grass you’re looking for light poles or trees. You’re looking for just the different changes of the sidewalk, so when you’re going out into the street… So times a driven a street to feel the same, so you just sort of have to be able to do it. Is that a driveway or a street? I know I’ve had a couple of times, right, not doing a block. Sometimes you don’t know that there’s wing a side street in the driveway, so you just go across that open path in if you don’t hear any cars going, you just keep moving and then Hey, I was either a strut I’ve had that happen. It’s either a trip leader of street usually I can tell, but every now and again you can’t ’cause… And then you get to the corner, you’re looking for that curve-cut or the way the side, what kind of turns into the grass for the corners, which you’re looking for.

C: And then another thing that I wanted to bring up… So I don’t personally have a physical disability, vision or mobility or anything like that, but one thing that I do notice rather frequently, especially in the downtown Columbia shopping district, near where I work, there’s a lot of concern about the lack of what we call pedestrian refuge islands. So if you have a street and for whatever reason you have to stop in the middle of the street.

Often times there will be this kind of raised concrete area where a pedestrian can kinda stand until they feel comfortable proceeding.

At least once a week when I’m driving or I’m walking, I see somebody who either they have a cane or they’re in a wheelchair, and every week at least, I see someone who’s going across the cross-walk and I, the light turns green before they’re across the street and it’s awkward and also terrifying, because it’s one of those situations where you could see the person going.

I’m not sure if I should just be a book as fast I possibly can, or if I should just hang out in the middle of the road. And then the cars are confused because the people in the cars, don’t know. Do I go, “Am I going to hit this person? So the lack of pedestrian refuge islands. And then also the lights change very quickly.

Sometimes these lights change too fast for me, so I can imagine somebody who even though I don’t have a mobile disability, I can empathize with the idea of if this were any more difficult for me, I would not make it across the street just… And you see in… You had a strong role in a same street. I can re-think That’s the right corner. It’s one of those where you sort of… I’m not even sure you could… It is hard to make it across that I end up, I can’t remember how long that light is, but it seems about some of the time I end up just simply either barely making it or having to do a car to… It’s not a street that’s a… That’s a multi-line it’s massive, it’s big and it’s Laurel and assembly and I think that is one of the fastest lights that I’ve seen.

I go as far as to say that assembly is probably the busiest Street in downtown Columbia and it’s, I think, I wanna say it’s a six-lane road in a one-eyed.

B: I think it’s at least five.

Yeah, yeah ’cause there’s been ticking. There’s the median, there’s the medians that you’re not led to cross for certain stretches of assembly. ’cause they got gates up there, yeah. And so, I don’t know. A world in a semi-light seems to change awful fast. I don’t know what’s up with that. It just seems like it does. And that’s not far from the transit center where you’ve got a lot of pedestrians because that’s where the buses, the bus where it won. Starting in a… Yes, yeah and so then… So it seems like that is awfully fast as far as I can tell, I can make it across, but just barely or something. I have to go in for real time it and see, and see how that works, but I’ve been in those situations where you catch a light a little bit. I don’t know if you’ve been in them where you catch a like just a little check-in or too late, and you’re going across that street, and man, the cross traffic’s coming in, you’re in the middle of it, or anyone who’s turning right on red. Yes, turn every one a red.

Oh yeah, so even if you have the right away and it’s time for your part, to walk across the street. Stole yeah, you get stopped anyway.

J: Yes, I’ve had that happen where two or three cars turning front got to wait until that car goes off your left shoulder. Like I were getting precise. So when the car comes up, let’s just say I’m using the left side, I have to wait until it’s of parallel right with about left shoulder when I… You can tell it’s going straight to go… You go straight along with it. So you use it as a shield to do anything else if you don’t do it like that you actually can get hit because they’ll turn and they’re gonna turn it 25 miles an hour but they’re not gonna turn on the car but that’s right besides that cars, it’s kind of like your shield almost because they’re not gonna turn into that usually, but if you just go just on a dime, right as the parallel traffic goes somebody can turn right into… You had to actually turn very quickly, a few times and almost like a…

I’m walking this way and I had to do this all of a sudden so I’ve had to turn real fast to avoid being hit by turning traffic. I had to just stop on a dime, or turn or stuff like that.

And see, that was because I kinda stepped out a little too quick. So that’s kind of one of those things you learn to kinda wait about it. You hesitate about that half-second and then you can tell…

B: So what are some things that we as a community can do to improve the quality of a desk? You’re in infrastructure and transportation option. Just in South Carolina.

C: Well, I think with the day-to-day as far as what could I do five minutes from now, after I get off listening to this podcast definitely being very aware of your surroundings.

Often times it’s really easy to be in a car and just have road rage where you don’t really even see the other folks on the road as people anymore. It’s that’s a “andesitic that’s in my way or that’s a pedestrian that jumped out in front of me.

But just really kind of keeping in mind who’s around you, whenever you’re driving, and also trying to get out and walk as much as you can, I feel that because my first five years in Colombia, I didn’t have a car.

And I think that really helped me build my empathy for people who, for whatever reason, either can’t or don’t drive because that’s where I understood, crossing the busiest street downtown, assembly straight and that was when I realized, “Oh this is really hard for me in the rain to the try it in a wheelchair if you can’t see that kind of thing. But definitely that awareness raising on your own but also we’re thinking long-term so we have this policy campaign that we’re working with the Department of Transportation to try to get… Just to try to get them to tweak a few things because we do understand they’re the fourth largest state owner of roads, so they can’t be everywhere all the time.

We’re empathetic to that but we do have some recommendations for how they can make things better to make sure that they were reflecting local interests and the interests of all the different demographics, who use the streets all of the time, so different ways that you could take action to support Se Livable Communities Alliance, if you are a mayor business owner or organization leader, if you could sign our Policy letter of support and you can find that information on SE livable communities, dot org and then also you can sign up for our email list serve and if you were interested in this issue, if you’re just really on fire about it, you can make that happen again. That website is S livable communities, dot org. Or you can contact me directly. Our number is 8-0-3-4-4-5-10-90.

B: Awesome, well that’s all the time we’ve got for this episode, so thanks for being with us Corrine and Justin and thanks for listening during us again next month right here on the Access Aisle. ript:

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