On August 20, the Community Library of Dewitt and Jamesville will open its brand new building at 5110 Jamesville Road. This new location is two miles away from Shoppingtown Mall where the library had been a tenant for 55 years. On August 2, the Post-Standard reported that Centro would not divert an existing bus line to service this new location. Wendy Scott, the Dewitt library’s executive director, told the Post-Standard that “we would welcome a bus route to the new library and plan on revisiting the issue after we open at the new location.”
This should be obvious, but Centro can’t just change a route because the library’s moving. All of its routes are timed in relation to each other in order to facilitate transfers. If Centro extends the 62 route to service the new library, then that bus would miss the lineup at the end of its return trip to the Hub, and people trying to get across town would have to wait until the next lineup to make their transfers.
It’s also unreasonable to expect Centro to run a bus line down Jamesville Road just to serve the library. Transit only works when it links lots of riders with lots of destinations. Buses travel along Erie Boulevard and Genesee Street because lots of people need to get to the many destinations along those corridors. Jamesville Road doesn’t have enough destinations to support a bus line, and adding a single destination like a library is not going to change that.
Since Centro can’t just change its bus schedule to cater specifically to the library’s needs, the library should have moved to a location along an existing bus line. This is something bus riders understand. When you rely on the bus to get around, decisions about where to live or where to work or where to hang out depend on the presence of a bus line–it’s non-negotiable.
Director Scott doesn’t see bus service as something that the library needs. She sees it as a luxury–an option that she would like for the library to have, but not one that’s important enough to really drive big decisions. It certainly wouldn’t have been impossible for the library to find a location along an existing bus route–every single one of the other 31 libraries in Onondaga County is accessible by bus–but access for bus riders took a backseat to other concerns when the library’s board decided to move to Jamesville Road.
As a public institution committed to the empowerment of the entire community without regard to income, the library is its most effective when it’s accessible to the entire community–especially those members of the community who can’t afford to buy books or access technology on their own. These are the same people who also can’t afford cars. It may be that “less than 2 percent of library users said they take the bus to the library,” but that’s no reason to make the library inaccessible to that two percent. If only 2 percent of library users need wheelchairs, that wouldn’t be a reason to remove the handicap ramps. The library’s decision to move to a spot inaccessible by bus was a decision to exclude part of the community from a valuable public resource, and it was a mistake.