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93-year-old Amherst woman tired of waiting to get a bench at her bus stop

  • Eleanor Hassell,m93, has been trying for months to get a bench installed at this bus stop near her Chestnut Court home.
  • <br/>Bus stop on Pleasant and Chestnut street in Amherst.<br/>

Her knees hurt and it is hard for her to stand and wait for the bus she relies on to get her to doctor appointments and most anywhere else she needs to go. She says she has spent months pleading with “dozens of people” to get a seat placed at the PVTA bus stop near her Chestnut Court home.

“Everybody thinks it’s a big joke,” she said this week. ”I don’t know what’s the matter with people who won’t give me a little bench.”

Her plight came up at a recent Council on Aging meeting, attended by state Rep. Ellen Story.

“It seems like a good, simple request,” Story said.

And now it seems a bench is in sight. Mary MacInnes, executive director of the PVTA, said the town is planning to pour a concrete pad near the bus stop at the intersection of East Pleasant and Chestnut streets next week and then, once the concrete sets, PVTA will install the seat.

“It has been in the works. It takes a bit of time to program the work,” she said. A shelter may be added at a later time, she said.

Town Manager John Musante, who serves as chairman of the PVTA Advisory Committee, said Tuesday he has known about Hassell’s appeals, but thought the bench had already been installed.

Hassell will be quick to tell you, emphatically, that it has not. In fact a little over a week ago, she said, she stood in the cold, in pain, for an hour waiting for a bus. She was “chilled to the bone,” she said, and it took days for her to recover from the resulting body aches.

Hassell was once an avid hiker, and doesn’t take kindly to the changes aging has foisted on her. She wants to keep going out, she said, but she no longer drives and the bus is her main means of transportation.

But not if she has to stand to wait for it.

“I used to walk over there and stand, but now it’s too much for me,” she said, gesturing toward the bus stop.

And so is the effort to get a seat installed. Hassell said she has voiced her concerns at the Amherst Senior Center and the Amherst Housing Authority, as well as to other town representatives, and she is worn out.

“I would like the bench to be there, but I don’t have the strength left to fight,” she said. “What are they waiting for? Me to die?”

Hassell said there is a bench nearby in front of Jean Elder House’s courtyard, but it is not close enough to the bus stop for her to use.

A niece provides her transportation periodically, she said, but mainly, “I’m stuck here like a fool. I’d like to get on the bus when I feel like it. I could go to CVS for prescriptions. I could go to the Senior Center. I could go to the post office and I could go to the bank.”

Having easier access to transportation would also get her to Clarke School in Northampton to have her hearing aids repaired.

Decisions about where benches and shelters go are made less on cost and more on whether they will be serving a need, MacInnes said.

People are welcome to write or call with requests, she said, but the agency can’t afford to put a bench or shelter at every bus stop.

“We usually look at the demand. If a sufficient number of people are boarding, we’ll install a bench and shelter,” she said.

Both the town and PVTA eventually agreed the bench could go in at Hassell’s stop.

The timing, though, may be too late for Hassell to get to the Senior Center for the Thanksgiving meal it will host on Thursday.

“I don’t know how I’m going to get there,” she said.

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