Transit Stories: Barbara Manson

Bike Durhman – Durham, North Carolina

I want to tell you about my brother Bradlee. We grew up together in Dallas, Texas, where he was the oldest of my five siblings. He attended trade school, worked for the State of Texas for many years before retiring recently. He was once given an award by the City of Dallas for his work volunteering with disabled children.

My brother is disabled and has been since birth. Despite this, Bradlee has always been determined to carve his own path in the world, and he couldn’t have done it without public transportation.

Because my brother can’t drive, he would take the bus to school and to the jobs he’s held over the years. Taking the bus didn’t just give him a chance to earn a paycheck, it also gave him a bit of independence. Many of us who aren’t disabled may take it for granted, but I can’t overstate the value of being able to go out into the world on your own, befriend people, and build an identity for yourself. None of that would have been possible for my brother if it weren’t for public transportation.

Six years ago, I moved to North Carolina to be closer to my daughter and grandson, and my brother soon followed and moved in with me. Honestly, this was not an easy transition; Bradlee had a community of friends that he was leaving behind, and soon he began to have health issues. There were days where most of my brother’s time was spent inside, with little interaction with the outside world.

But then I learned about a program that brings together people with and without special needs for events where they can have fun and bond with one another. Bradlee immediately loved this program, and now he goes there two to three times a week. He’s meeting people and having new experiences and creating new memories.

None of that would be possible without public transit. My brother takes our local bus service’s paratransit to these events and to some of his medical appointments. He calls our transit agency and schedules a time for a paratransit van to come pick him up. It’s truly been a game changer. Without it I would be forced to choose between taking him to his events or spending time with my grandson or undertaking my own volunteer endeavors.

That’s not to say that everything is perfect. Sometimes the paratransit van isn’t on time picking my brother up in the mornings, which means that we must rush to make last minute plans to get him to his appointments. On a few occasions he’s gotten home so late that I’ve had to call him because I was concerned. From what we can tell, these problems are happening because it seems as though there aren’t enough drivers to cover the demand for the service. While my brother uses paratransit services frequently, neither of us rides the regular bus routes. I’d love to be able to ride the bus instead of driving everywhere, but there aren’t any stops close to my home, and the service doesn’t run frequently enough for it to be an alternative to driving.

My hope is that by reading our story you leave with the understanding that transit isn’t just about getting people from one place to another. Public transit is a lifeline that ensures that everyone in our communities is connected to one another, and able to live their life to the fullest.

About Transit Stories

Transit Stories” is a series of real-life experiences with public transit in the U.S. We feature the first-hand experience of public transit riders from across the country. From large cities to small towns, we will document the experiences of the millions of users of busses, trains, ferries, and other forms of public transit in the US. Public transit is essential to our communities, to cooling the planet, to advancing equity. Transit is essential to our very lives.

There is a unique opportunity for the country to make a historic investment in public transit funding to help the country build back better. 

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