Fighting for You: Huntsville Woman Calls Bus Changes Bothersome

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Hundreds of people ride the shuttle buses serving Huntsville each day. Many find the routes work, but the buses don't arrive on time. Some say the routes don't arrive at all. The city of Huntsville made changes to public transit system a few days ago. The changes were done to make the system better.

Sheila Barnes has taken a seat on one of the buses for a decade. She contacted WHNT NEWS 19 to say the changes are not better for her or anyone where she lives. Barnes has eye problems, chronic pain in her back and legs and partial paralysis on the right side of her body. She uses the city's shuttle bus to get to a lot of places, including her doctor. Barnes says her walk to a new bus stop is creating another problem.

Barnes noticed a problem with Huntsville's public transit system from day one. The Johnson Towers resident caught the bus outside her home for 10 years. She now has to catch it across the street.

"This is my only way. This is my only transportation," said Barnes.

The new pick-up location bothers Barnes, but does not hurt as much as the drop-off location near her doctor's office.

"We have to walk from the curb at Huntsville Hospital to the UAB Medical Center. I'd say by the time I get there, I would be out of breath," added Barnes.

Kim Garrett has been with the city's public transit system for 23 years.

"Oh gosh. It has changed amazingly," said Garrett.

Garrett oversaw changes at the system about a week ago taking the buses from 11 routes to nine. One of the changes moved a bus stop near Barnes' doctor office a quarter of a mile farther away.

"It is a walk for someone who has a disability and it is hard to do it," added Garrett.

Garrett insists the overall changes have improved the shuttle bus service. The buses run from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm. Most run on the hour, but a couple of buses run every thirty minutes.

"We knew a year ago that ridership was getting to be such that the buses were not able to stay on schedule. The drivers were having to push it. They were constantly late," added Garrett.

Garrett watched ridership increase 35% during the process of making changes.

"The buses that were starting to be late were becoming later all the time. Nobody could depend on the bus being on time," added Garrett.

Barnes has caught the bus at the location outside her apartment for years. It allowed a place for her to sit down and be protected from the wind. She now has to walk down the street and near a curb to catch a bus. She says that`s the problem.

"It is not a blessing any more. It hurts. It hurts I have to stand out in the cold when they say they are going to be here on the hour every hour. It would be okay if they could be accurate, but they are not accurate," added Barnes.

Garrett is working to get the buses on time, but promises to ease the pain for Barnes.

"The bus stop shelter is moving. It is actually moving closer to them. They`ll have a shelter place at the end of the driveway to wait for their bus," added Garrett.

Garrett told WHNT NEWS 19 crews should begin moving the bus stop shelter in a week. She says workers may need two weeks to make the move. WHNT NEWS 19 will be sure to see that Barnes gets the new bus stop shelter.