Members of Bangor’s faith communities who worship on Sundays most likely arrive at their places of worship in their own cars. Some may live close enough to walk or bicycle. One thing is certain, though. If they worship on Sunday not one rides the bus.
Why is that? Because there are no bus runs in Bangor on Sundays.
Nor are there bus runs after 7 p.m. on weekdays. If you don’t think that’s a big deal, you probably have access to your own vehicle and can take off for any destination at any time you choose. Not so for those who depend on public transportation.
Because most of us in the Bangor area drive cars, we don’t often stop to consider what life is like for those who can’t afford their own vehicle or have reached the age when they’ve decided it’s safer not to drive.
Scrambling to catch the bus, make a connection, and get to work or an appointment on time can be daunting. It becomes doubly difficult when those appointments or work schedules occur outside the hours of regular bus service.
If someone’s job requires evening hours, they’re out of luck when they leave work unless they have a friend or co-worker willing to give them a lift, or they’re forced to use most of their pay for cab fare.
Attending Bangor City Council’s evening meetings is problematic for those who live beyond walking distance from City Hall.
Hampden recently eliminated its Saturday bus service, meaning those Hampden folks who ride the bus to work or shop on Saturdays are now required to take a cab or scramble to find some alternate way to get where they need to be.
A non-driving senior citizen who wants to see an evening movie has to add the cab fare to the evening’s cost.
This is a social justice issue that should concern all people of faith, no matter which day of the week we worship. I am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor. We have seven principles that guide our actions, the second of which calls upon us to “affirm and promote justice, equity and compassion in human relations.”
Other faith communities have similar beliefs, which all embody the basic premise of the Golden Rule: “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.”
Stop for one minute and think. If you did not own a personal vehicle, how would you feel about having your ability to move throughout the Bangor area limited to the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.? How far would you be willing to walk at 8:30 p.m. on a January evening?
Members of several Bangor area congregations have been working as part of an interfaith group trying to increase bus ridership and bus services. This group is called Transportation for All and is a project of Faith Linking in Action, Food AND Medicine and Power in Community Alliances.
We’ve learned that a 10 percent increase in bus ridership would make a huge impact in assuring the Community Connector can continue to serve the greater Bangor area and possibly even allow for additional routes or hours.
So here’s the challenge to all people of faith (and any others who feel compassion for their neighbors): Let’s ride the bus!
Make a commitment to ride the bus once a week, once a month or just once in awhile. You’ll have time to relax and see sights you didn’t notice when you were focused on traffic. You’ll get outside your “car bubble” and save wear and tear on your vehicle. And you’ll feel good about helping to assure the bus will be there for those who need it.
Joan Ellis is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor located on Park Street and a member of the group Dignity for All.
This piece is part of a contributor series about the difference between charity and justice. Through Faith Linking in Action, an initiative of Brewer-based Food AND Medicine, leaders and lay people alike are sharing their insights. How do various beliefs and backgrounds relate to the needs of people in poverty? What do charity and justice mean in today’s world? If you’re interested in joining the conversation, submit a piece that’s no longer than 700 words to BDN editor Erin Rhoda firstname.lastname@example.org.