Wave Transit discusses senior accessibility in virtual town meeting

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wave Transit held a virtual town hall meeting Thursday. It’s been four years since the department opened the floor to public comment like this, all part of their plan to rebuild Wilmington’s public transit system.

Since the pandemic’s start, Wave Transit’s ridership has decreased by about 50 percent.

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That’s part of the reason Wave held a virtual town hall. This specific meeting was geared toward making Wilmington’s bus system more accessible to senior citizens and those with disabilities.

Many attendees offered suggestions when officials opened the floor. Andrew Zelden, a social work supervisor at New Hanover’s Senior Resource Center suggested promoting their services more.

“You know, providing people with the knowledge of this is what Wave offers,” explained Zelden. “This is what the senior center offers and kind of having a one stop shop resource where we really try to set these people up for success rather than, hey you can’t drive anymore. Sorry.”

Lisa Dismukes, another attendee suggested creating more bus stops near communities with high populations of senior citizens.

According to Dismukes, “It’s really hard with people that have mobility issues to walk that distance to get the bus.”

Even asking Wave to help those no longer able to drive get to doctor’s appointments beyond the agency’s set routes.

“I mean, I had one person…. they were burned,” Zelden continued. “There was not a burn doctor in our area that could treat them. They had to go to Chapel Hill. And they were like basically begging me to take their car and drive them up there because they couldn’t do it.”

After public comment, Wave’s Mobility Manager, Vanessa Lacer talked about safety during COVID-19. She detailed Wave’s precautions: sanitizing buses with fog machines, requiring masks, and putting plastic barriers onboard.

Lacer ended the meeting by committing to continue making buses as safe as possible.

“However that looks,” said Lacer, “however COVID goes, people still need those resources. And we are still able to provide them.”

Wave is also asking the public to fill out a survey on accessibility. You can fill that out until January 31, when Wave will take their findings and draft a locally coordinated plan.

After that, Wave is allowing public comment again in March, adopting their final plan in May of this year.