Refugees Petition for Bus Service

By  | 

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA (NEWSPLEX) They are refugees and new citizens in Charlottesville that come from all over the world: Iraq, Nepal, Afghanistan, Brazil, and Congo.

When school is in session, they use the bus to get to work, to classes at Charlottesville Schools' Adult Learning Center, or to take their children to the doctor's office.

But the only bus that comes to UHeights is a UTS bus, the bus system run by the University of Virginia. When school isn't in regular session, such as over the summer, or even when students are in exam weekm the UTS bus service stops coming to their University Heights apartment complex. Often the only other affordable option is walking.

So, with the help of their English as a Second Language Teachers Kate Steers and Heidi Gordon, they decided to try to do something about it and try to get bus service for all of the people that live in University Heights, not just the students.

"So many of our students who are dependent on the bus will not come to class because it takes them much too long. They've had maybe a long day at work, maybe a half an hour if they walk down to Emmet Street and then get on a City bus."

"I know that area, and it's not a nice place to walk a mile at night after a long day. There's not very good lighting on the side of the road and some of it.

They wrote a letter to the CAT bus service, and met with Mayor Sateyendra Huja, and spoke with the apartment management at their University Heights Apartments, and spoke to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and brought them a petition. They haven't had luck yet.

CBS19 talked to John Jones, a spokesman for CAT. He said they would love to provide bus service for UHeights residents, but it comes down to a lack of revenue stream and a lack of current route that they could just add a stop to. He said if Albemarle County is willing to pay for the bus service to University Heights, they would provide it.

University Heights resident Chandra Tamang is hopeful.

"If any of the university bus or the CAT bus, if they go through Colonnade Drive, once an hour or every half an hour, it can work."

Their ESL teachers believe this is a valuable lesson for new citizens. They are learning how to navigate their new home and getting involved in local government.

Steers says because they came from other countries, often bringing concerns to their local governments was not an option.

"They are new people in America, and they are realizing that we do have recourse and we can ask our leaders to help us when we have problems. And that's new to some people. They are not used to that. And our leaders will listen to us and try to help us."