Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Editorial: A bus rider gets her due


Bus stop on Pleasant and Chestnut street in Amherst.

Bus stop on Pleasant and Chestnut street in Amherst.

It isn’t David vs. Goliath, but the little person with a big sense of fight is the winner in the battle of the bus bench. Eleanor Hassell of Chestnut Court in Amherst grew tired of having to stand at her neighborhood bus stop. She says her knees get sore, at the age of 93.

But a fighting spirit will soon allow her to wait for the bus in comfort. After months of attempts, and conversations with “dozens of people,” she managed to win approval for a place to sit while waiting for the bus.

A bench will be placed at the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority stop she uses at the junction of East Pleasant and Chestnut streets. The town of Amherst is preparing a concrete pad, after which the PVTA says it will install a bench.

It takes an insistent voice to get something like this done. We applaud Hassell for sticking with it. We also credit the town and PVTA administrators for letting this unusual appeal get through the sometimes frustrating filters of customer service.

A transit company can’t stick a bench just anywhere one is demanded. But a responsible company must listen to these kinds of requests and judge their merits on a case-by-case basis. PVTA officials had to be moved by Hassell’s need. She is one of their people, a true-blue rider.

Though a niece sometimes helps her get around Amherst, Hassell relies on the PVTA to do her regular errands — picking up medications at the drug store, visiting the senior center and conducting business at the post office and a local bank.

This fall, she reports having to stand for an hour in the cold waiting for the bus. For days after, her body ached from the exertion of standing. Though a bench exists nearby, in front of the Jean Elder House courtyard, she can’t make it from there to her own bus stop in time.

Public transit vehicles routinely make special spaces available to older riders. Seats are marked on buses and subway cars where they have priority. It is a natural extension to offer Hassell a seat for waiting and to recognize all the miles she has come, over the course of a century, to be an esteemed member of the Amherst community.

This little construction job should remind us all that public works projects exist, in the end, for the people they serve.

We’re glad Hassell’s appeals were finally heard.

If you find yourself waiting at the same stop, you might join her on the bench, comment on the weather, and thank her for reinforcing the fact that few improvements in civic life would come without determined people, like Eleanor Hassell, asking our leaders to do the decent thing.

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