Thursday, February 8, 2018
by Margaret Drew
Previously, I wrote about the human right to transportation. In modern culture, access to basic human rights, such as work, housing, medical care, and education, can hinge on the ability to travel. During the spring 2017 semester, students in UMass Law's Human Rights at Home Clinic conducted a transportation study of the South Coast Massachusetts area. Prior area transportation studies had been conducted, but none from a human rights perspective.
Students rode bus routes operated by the Southeast Regional Transportation Authority (SRTA), interviewing riders during the process. As part of their due diligence, students met with Eric Rousseau, SRTA administrator, who twice during the semester engaged students during our weekly seminar. The first visit came at the beginning of the study and the second when the students presented their findings. The collaboration that developed created an opportunity for both sides to discuss their different approaches. One obvious difference revolved around economics. While Administrator Rousseau must justify expenditures to regional stakeholders, the students argued for change based upon the needs of riders, without regard for cost or the number of riders affected. Once the student's report was released, the partners easily found common ground on changes to be made. Some changes will be accomplished in the near future, while others may take longer, while others involve third party cooperation, such as municipalities.
Simple changes, such as enforcement of no-parking zones, and cutting tree limbs that block bus stop signs are more easily accomplished and are under local control, rather than SRTA's. The same is true of sign postings, as well as ensuring that bus drivers routinely lower buses to ease access for elderly and disabled. One change that will be likely accomplished by year's end is creating a bus stop for those visiting our local house of corrections, as well as increased signage along specific routes.
We anticipate a long term collaboration with SRTA and look forward to additional improvements. Anyone wishing to read the report's executive summary or would like assistance in designing a transportation study are welcome contact Margaret Drew at firstname.lastname@example.org