I am a medically disabled woman, living within the legal boundaries of Chapel Hill. I live alone and cannot afford a car. My sole transportation is provided by Orange County Transportation (OCT), and limited to medical appointments during the week.
I may use the cityâ€™s free public transportation, but the closest bus stop to my home is a dangerous 2-mile walk, which prohibits me from riding Chapel Hillâ€™s public buses. I have qualified for EZ Rider, Chapel Hillâ€™s system for the poor and/or disabled, but EZ Rider refuses me their assistance.
OCT and EZ Rider have stringent requirements for their riders, yet both are operating at or beyond their capacity. OCT contracts with several Hillsborough schools, and must limit services to the hours between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday-Friday. EZ Rider is available to qualifying Chapel Hill residents for all transportation needs, 6 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Monday-Friday; from 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays; and from 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Sundays.
Both receive funding through the state and the U.S. government. EZ Rider also receives funding through the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and UNC.
EZ Riderâ€™s last stop is 1 mile from my home. They refuse to come further. Why? I live in what is called â€œthe rural buffer zone,â€ an area of low-residency on the edges of Chapel Hillâ€™s city limits. EZ Rider will not pick me up, although it does occasionally help others who live in the rural buffer zone. Since North Carolina can no longer afford to offer Section 8 housing assistance, I, like many disabled Chapel Hill residents, found housing more affordable away from the cityâ€™s center.
EZ Rider takes people to church, the libraries, large convenience stores just outside Chapel Hill, laundromats, work, school, recreation centers; to art, cultural, political and social events; to grocery and drugstores.
I have no transportation to any of these places. I have no help for my basic needs, or for the normal individualâ€™s personal and social needs.
It seems that our city has been unable to devise a transportation plan that equally serves the needs of the poor and/or disabled, the UNC-affiliated population and other Chapel Hill residents. For residents whose needs arenâ€™t met by the present system, a reasonable flexibility to its rules is a logical and humane expectation.