WDEL | by Mark Fowser
On a sweltering afternoon in Wilmington, disgruntled riders joined community activists and a few elected officials Thursday at a downtown rally and march to demand restoration of bus routes that were diverted away from Rodney Square nearly eight months ago.
“Public transportation, not public discrimination” they chanted as they held signs and held a short protest before proceeding from Rodney Square to the Carvel State Office Building several blocks away. There, they delivered petitions containing more than 2,300 signatures to the office of Governor John Carney.
The demonstrators contend the changes have made it difficult for riders to make their connections, and they maintain decisions were made in secret before public hearings.
“We’re not going to allow discrimination in 2018 in Wilmington, Delaware,” D’Marque Hall said.
“This is a civil rights violation across many different classes of citizens,” Scott Spencer of the Coalition to Return Bus Service to Rodney Square said. “We want to reverse this wrong and do what all cities in the nation have: a centralized bus hub to make convenient connections for the system.”
The coalition has been trying for months to reverse the route changes, and maintains Governor Carney used Executive Privilege to redact many pages of e-mails sought under the Freedom of Information Act. Coalition leaders have said e-mail communications which are still the subject of FOIA requests indicate that private meetings involving the governor, staff members and the city’s business community focused upon the dismantling of the bus hub at Rodney Square. Coalition leaders believe exaggerated fears about crime contributed to the route changes.
Governor Carney’s Communications Director Jonathan Starkey accepted the petitions. Starkey reiterated the Governor’s position that Rodney Square was never actually intended as a transportation hub, and that a $20-million transportation hub was being built near the Wilmington Amtrak Station.
“We think that DelDOT did a pretty good job including the public in the discussion around the changes around the bus stops,” Starkey added. Also, he said several routes were restored for riders who were particularly impacted by the changes that took effect last December.
To make their final point of the day, deomonstrators visited the location where Governor Carney was to attend the grand opening of a downtown residential building.
Through a bullhorn, Spencer said “secret e-mails and secret meetings that led to this ill-advised decision should not be allowed to violate the integrity of the public hearing process.”