SAN ANTONIO – An effort to reduce crime on the West Side angered some VIA riders who use the bus stop on Westfield Drive just off Military.
VIA removed the benches, hoping to keep criminals away, and the small change made a big impact on handicapped riders.
One of those customers is Orlando Woods, who gets around town using bus stop #37923.
“Business meetings, Bible study, choir practice – I use this all the time,” Woods says.
He’s grateful for a place to sit. A stroke forced him to wear a knee brace.
“Keeps me from falling,” Woods says.
So he was shocked the day he got to the bus stop and the benches were gone.
“To me, they were penalizing the handicapped,” Woods says.
VIA says that was not the intention. A spokesperson says VIA removed the benches at the request of San Antonio Police, and regular riders understand why.
“They have a lot of bad people that come here,” rider Jacqueline Granizo says. “Drink, prostitution.”
The signs of crime are there: graffiti on the bus stop, beer cans in the trash and litter everywhere.
Police records show more than 60 calls to the intersection since January 1.
“Most of the time, we have a lot of crazy people just sitting out here,” rider Carolyn Perez says. “They’re always drinking all the time. Sometimes they get a little crazy.”
Some riders say removing the benches didn’t actually keep criminals away, and only ended up hurting the elderly and disabled.
“I think they should accommodate for the disabled,” Granizo says. “They should have certain seats for them.”
VIA says enough customers complained, crews replaced the benches, making the wait more comfortable for people in Woods’ shoes.
“I had told them my birthday wish was for you to put those benches back, so thank you,” Woods says to VIA.
That makes one problem solved, but the crime still exists, so VIA says the transit police will watch the area extra closely.