SAN ANTONIO – It was an effort to reduce crime that’s now backfired twice at a west side bus stop.
Back in May, News 4 WOAI reported
SAPD asked VIA to remove the benches at stop #37923, on Westfield Drive near Military and Highway 90, because police had received so many calls to that area.
Many riders with disabilities convinced VIA to put the benches back.
But now, the benches are gone – again – and those disabled riders feel like they have no options so they reached out to News 4 for help.
Whether he’s sweating out the summer sun or bundling up from winter’s wind, Orlando Woods pays $30 a month to see the world go by from a VIA bus.
“My only means of transportation,” Woods says.
But never mind the open road. It’s a place to sit that means the most.
“Freedom,” Woods explains, a moment’s relief from the pain of a disability caused by a stroke.
He says that freedom disappeared, along with the benches, and now the pain is constant during the 20-minute wait for the bus.
"When standing, where the [knee] brace ends, it's like rubbing against the skin,” Woods describes the pain.
A different kind of pain forced VIA to remove the benches twice in six months: crime.
Last year, SAPD received more than 100 calls to the intersection.
"Originally they had taken the benches away because of drugs and prostitution,” Woods says.
He says removing the benches doesn’t remove the problem – it only relocates it, just a quarter-block away where people who once gathered at the bus stop now sit under a tree.
“That’s something that they can’t get rid of,” Woods says.
So News 4 went back to VIA for answers. A spokesperson promises to monitor crime rates to see if removing the benches makes a difference and we will stay on top of this to see if the benches will be replaced.
"Instead of punishing the handicapped do something about whatever the issues are going on in this area,” Woods says.
In the meantime, he says, take away the graffiti – not a disabled person’s freedom.