COLUMBIA — About 30 postcards arrived in Barbara Hoppe's mailbox during the middle of the recent debate over city transit cuts.
The postcards, addressed to the Sixth Ward councilwoman, said the proposed cuts were too harsh and targeted the people least able to pay. They said the cuts weren't in the community's best interest and noted that public transportation decreases wear and tear on roads.
The postcards were distributed to citizens by Columbians for Modern, Efficient Transit, the team working on public transportation through Unite 4 Healthy Neighborhoods, and sent to City Council members.
About 900 postcards were sent, Michelle Windmoeller, assistant director of PedNet, said.
"It always helps to hear people speak up and say what’s important to them," Hoppe said. "Sometimes, you just have to give them an effective mechanism to do that. I think it was helpful and had a helpful impact."
The postcards are one example of a key goal of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative: involving citizens in policy issues related to obesity.
Columbians for Modern, Efficient Transit set out to triple bus ridership during the next three years to increase physical activity by getting people to walk or bike to and from bus stops and to give people better access to schools and jobs. The proposed transit cuts, however, changed the group’s course of action.
Those cuts included eliminating Thursday, Friday and Saturday routes after 6:25 p.m. and increasing fares. Instead, the sole bus runs cut were the Thursday and Friday 9:30 p.m. routes, but there were no cuts on Saturdays.
“Luckily, we already had a team together. That allowed us to move quickly and get the word out to the community and have organized effort to try to stop the transit cuts,” Windmoeller said. “If we didn’t have the public transportation team, who knows what would have happened?”
Unite 4 Healthy Neighborhoods supports Mayor Bob McDavid’s vision for quadrupling the use of the transit system, Windmoeller said. Ideally, her group would like to see a bus system with frequent, convenient service that reaches all parts of the city.
“You know, pie in the sky," she said, "there are places where transit is free, so it would be great for Columbia to get to that point."
Other stories in this project:
- Community garden offers residents the chance to grow their own food
- Safer neighborhoods lead to a more active, vibrant Columbia
- Projects aim to make healthy food options more affordable
- High school students learn to promote healthy, active lifestyles
- Chicago, Fresno promote selection of healthy alternatives