The Very Definition of Access

Wintry infrastructure in Indianapolis. Photo by Howard Kang

Wintry infrastructure in Indianapolis. Photo by Howard Kang.

When CJ Craig (aka, Allison Janney) mentioned in The West Wing, “When I move back to Los Angeles, I am going to do a lot more walking.” The retort was obvious, “Yes, Los Angeles, known for being a pedestrian nirvana.”

As a native Angeleno, I can commiserate, but LA has nothing on Indianapolis, so it has been reported. In this local news human interest story an 18 year old man was walking to a job interview in Indianapolis “10 miles” away from home…without sidewalks…’in the rain and snow and ice.’ It gets worse. He could only ‘afford the bus when he got a full time job’.

Now, the news story highlights how a local businessman smooths everything out, offering the young man a job in his restaurant’s kitchen, considerably closer to home.  What the feel good piece neglects is the point: access.

This was an ambulatory young man that still struggled to make that 10-mile schlep. What of the less-abled? What of the 18 year old woman making that trek at night? What of the kids and adults alike trying to get around when the weather is fair?  Though Indianapolis is trying (sort of) to make pedestrian access better, this should be a news story sans wintry-mix. No sidewalk = little access.

Also of note in this micro-saga: bus-fare. This blogger is aware of only one American city that gives its young people free transit, but in the age of the 26-year old (with degree) living at home and looking for work, what does “youth” even mean? 5-18? Hardly. Is 26 the new 18? In America, it is a hard sell to develop a true social safety net, but if (and its a big “if”) we did, a good starting point would be through subsidized sustainable accessibility for the young. The 18 year old guy looking for minimum wage and the debt-saddled graduate alike don’t need another barrier to entry for employment. They’d tap into the market for their skills if they could only get there. Sidewalks are a start. Subsidized bus fare, which is cheaper, could pave the way…tomorrow.

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About Matt Kroneberger

Recent graduate of UCLA in Political Science and Geography - Environment. Fascinated by and active in sustainable transportation, infrastructure, politics and international development.
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