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Issue Date: August 2009

Fix It!

Whether it’s the highbrow food and lowbrow locale of the Grovewood Tavern & Wine Bar or the already-legendary Beachland Ballroom, everyone recognizes the Waterloo Arts District as the hottest up-and-coming city neighborhood, right?

Well, maybe not.

No RTA bus lines serve that slice of North Collinwood, and while there is a stop within walking distance, it’s a seriously sketchy trek. What’s more, by our calculations, bus access to Waterloo would require adding just 1/16 of a mile to an existing route and spending a few thousand dollars extra each year.

“I love you. I love you. I love you,” Beachland Ballroom owner Cindy Barber exclaimed when I shared my figures. “I can’t believe how many times I’ve tried to find the right person to talk to at RTA.”

Barber, who says her customers ask about public transit options, often has to wait at the bus stop with her employees to make sure they get on OK.

I don’t blame her. When I headed to a Waterloo gallery via RTA in June, a member of the Lakesho’ Boyz — let’s call them a group of entrepreneurs — approached me after I exited the bus. He let me pass, but not before spitting on my shoes. The crew once caused the same problems on Waterloo before the increased police patrols.

Steve Bitto, head of marketing for RTA, says times are “very, very difficult” with pay cuts already implemented, furloughs in effect and more route cuts likely on the way. But when I laid out my proposal to extend the No. 30 bus line 1/16 of a mile for less than $3,000 a year, he paused. “Wow. Even if that number is really $8,000 or $10,000 or $15,000, that’s worth looking into.” He says RTA is always looking to enhance service within the constraints of its budget.

And who says RTA has to pay? Maybe business owners or an arts lover could chip in. While we all can appreciate the challenges of our current economy, not providing safe access to a vibrant city neighborhood is ridiculous.

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