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Fri August 8, 2014
In Cheyenne, A Small Change Creates Big Problems For City's Carless
Last April Cheyenne’s WYDOT ID Services moved into a new building. Its bigger than the old one, with more staff and faster lines. But it’s also a few miles out of town. There isn’t an easy way to walk there, and, unlike the old building, it’s not connected by bus service. The move probably isn’t a big deal for most Cheyenne residents. But it’s had an outsized effect on some in the city.
The new WYDOT ID Services building sits just off the highway, next to a McDonalds. I wanted to see what it was like to get there without a car, so I walked from the nearest bus stop. It was hot, windy, and there wasn’t really a sidewalk--it sucked.
But don’t take it from me. Jason Capps actually did need to get a new ID recently. His first attempt was with his wife.
“We hopped on the bus one day,” Capps says. “And we asked him ‘was there any place that the bus system dropped off that was anywhere near to where we get our license?’ Of course not.”
Capps’s works as a cook at the COMEA House, a homeless shelter in Cheyenne. After finding out there isn’t a bus service he decided to walk to the ID building, a journey he quickly found out wasn’t meant for pedestrians.
“You literally have to walk alongside the highway where there is nowhere you can be. Trucks rushing by people not paying attention--it’s kind of scary.”
For Laura Hutto, ID Service’s new location is more than an inconvenience. She’s disabled, and eats most of her meals at the COMEA shelter. Her daughter spends her days working at the temp agency Labor Ready, and Hutto says that, with no way to get an ID, she won’t be able to register for disability benefits.
“I can’t get help without a picture ID. And my daughter goes to Labor Ready at 5 O’clock in the morning. And the times she doesn’t go to Labor Ready she has no transportation to get where we are going!”
Stories like Capps’ and Hutto’s are not uncommon around the COMEA House. Having a state ID is a standard requirement for basic services like registering for benefits, or even getting a bed at the shelter. And an ID is required for almost any job. For people trying to get back on the ladder, getting that piece of plastic is often the first rung.
Joe Dougherty is the director of the Cheyenne transit program. When I asked him why there wasn’t a bus to the new ID place, he took me for a drive to the old ID building. That building was just a couple hundred feet from the nearest bus stop.
“At one time our stop was back here,” Dougherty pointed out sitting in his car. “Where it was really fairly close and convenient for passengers.”
Dougherty says that ID services’ didn’t tell him about its move until right as he was finishing up the city’s new master transit plan. And he says that, even if he had known, the buildings’ out of the way location made it prohibitively expensive to give it a bus route.
“Time is money in bus operations, bus operations cost 35-60 dollars an hour. And when you are doing this 13 times a day. Maybe with a passenger maybe not with a passenger, it becomes costly.”
This isn’t something WYDOT has been able to address, says spokesperson Dave Kingham.
“Its unfortunate that a bus doesn’t go out there. We’re hoping eventually it will. I don’t know exactly when that will be possible.”
Kingham says that he knows the inaccessibility of the new building is a problem, and he’s working on ideas to fix it. But he also says that, for people who can make it out, the new building is working really well.
“Lower cost more space, but also better service. This is a better place to serve the customers that are coming in.”
Jason Capps says that his community can’t afford to wait.
“There are people there who could get jobs. Who need jobs. And other people not just living at the COMEA but other people just living in town who need to get out there.”
But there isn’t a plan to get a bus line to Cheyenne’s ID Services anytime soon. And as the summer gives way to winter chill, the problem may only get worse.