The News Journal | Delaware Voice | by Rep. John Kowalko & John Flaherty
On Dec. 17, Delaware’s transit agency, DART, dismantled the bus hub at Rodney Square in Wilmington at the urging of Gov. John Carney. Removing a bus hub and the bus stops located there is an action that has never before been done across America, as far as we know.
Many bus riders reacted with outrage when the proposal was announced. Now, DART passengers face daily disruption as they endure walking several city blocks to make their new bus connections, sometimes forced to walk half a mile for their transfers.
The disruption especially affects city residents who are disabled, low income, people of color, senior citizens or children. For some, their nightly commute home is now more dangerous, as they are forced to walk long distances through unlit areas.
There have been no studies showing that Rodney Square has a problem with traffic congestion or heightened crime caused by the buses. The governor and some of his corporate friends contend, with little to no statistical proof, that the current hub will discourage the number of businesses locating in or near Rodney Square.
This absurdity has been debunked by the reality that many cities with thriving commercial areas located near transit hubs are doing much better than Wilmington.
As reported in The News Journal, Delaware’s well-heeled and well-connected corporate community has been allowed to reset public policy that punishes the majority and, coincidentally, the poorer inner-city residents. The decision to dismantle the Rodney Square bus hub was made long before the “proposal” was announced to the public, through closed-door meetings with business leaders that were never made public by the Governor’s Office.
The actions and influences of center-city Wilmington corporate firms such as Chemours, the Buccini/Pollin Group and others headquartered around Rodney Square to diminish access and convenience to public transportation for the masses belie the reality that most of these corporations have regularly come hat in hand to beggar more taxpayer money from Delaware’s government.
When Chemours lobbyist Greg Smith claims that Rodney Square is his company’s “front yard,” the bus riders for whom he shows obvious disdain are, in fact, the very same people that pay for the tax breaks and corporate welfare that his company enjoys. And we hear the same tropes of an environment “ripe for crime” from these corporate elites with the distinct odor of a decomposing “red herring” used to distract from a more onerous attitude in distinguishing “hundreds of people wearing business attire, many driving in from the suburbs” from “hundreds of transit riders.”
Gov. Carney’s statement that Wilmington must “strike the balance between the needs of bus riders and the needs of a vibrant central business district” resonates with a particularly callous attitude regarding the working poor and inner-city residents’ desperate need for public transportation in their daily lives.
The obvious reality is the companies around Rodney Square such as Chemours and the Buccini/Pollin Group enjoy an exclusive and privileged access to this Governor’s Office that they have used to benefit themselves at the expense of ordinary Delawareans once again. This continuation of the corrupt “Delaware Way” is a major impediment to good government decisions made on behalf of all residents of Delaware.
Little or no transparency, combined with the exclusivity of access to government officials and agencies, is a horrible formula that stands squarely in the way of good or honest government and prevents good decisions for all people.
A vibrant and expanding economy is necessary to secure Wilmington’s future and many of these firms that object to the Rodney Square hub will ensure that stability and success. The government can assist with the needs of these corporations, but not by ignoring and disrupting the lives of everyday taxpaying citizens.
A central transit hub is important to an efficient and effective public transportation system in cities. Riders, especially those who are elderly or disabled, should not have to walk long distances to transfer from one bus to another in order to reach their destination.
Let’s be fair and share the square. Restore the Rodney Square bus hub.
Rep. John Kowalko represents the 25th Representative District (Newark). John Flaherty is a leader of the Coalition to Keep Bus Service on Rodney Square.