(Photo from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eugene-EMX-2.jpg)
As a student in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, I took a course called "Gateway to Media," which served as an introduction to various multimedia and visual storytelling techniques. For this course, each student was required to pick an issue of local importance, and produce a series of stories around that topic.
I chose to focus my projects on Lane Transit District's expansion of the EmX bus route further into West Eugene. While the expansion might increase transportation options for the Eugene and Springfield communities, it also may negatively impact businesses along the route due to the construction itself.
Making a DifferenceFor this assignment, I sat down with Lisa VanWinkle of Lane Transit District (LTD). Lisa is the Outreach and Communications coordinator for the West Eugene EmX Project. Her job includes maintaining positive relations between LTD and the local community, as well as working directly with the businesses along the route.
After the approval of the EmX project, Lisa coordinated with business owners to minimize business impacts, such as by doing work at night, as well as ensuring that each business always had at least one accessible driveway for customers to enter. As a result of these efforts, the bulk of the businesses in West Eugene have become accepting of the EmX expansion, despite the inconveniences of constructions. Unfortunately, local residents have been less receptive to these efforts, and have been taking their business and patronage elsewhere. According to Lisa, “each person has to make that decision for themselves, but … it is frustrating to [her] that that’s one thing [she] doesn’t have any power over.”
Despite the slow timeline of the construction project, thegeneral public has continued to see it in a positive light, as a result ofLTD’s public outreach. While visiting a local urgent care facility near theWest Eugene EmX route, Lisa talked with one of the nurses about her role on the project. The nurse expressed his surprise at how much progress had been made in recent days, and was amazed at the general speed of the construction.
“The main thing that I know ishelpful to people is if they understand, in advance, what’s going to happen tothem, and why, and how long it’s going to take. And we work very hard toprovide that.” - Lisa VanWinkle
In The Moment
This assignment was a five-photo package focused on a single individual who is somehow connected to the issue. I chose to photograph one of my friends, Billy King, who lives near areas of EmX construction.
This assignment was to find someone connected to the issue, and interview them about a decision that they had made regarding the topic. I spoke with another one of my friends, Madeline Jenkins, who had recently made the decision to stop using the EmX and the rest of LTD's public transit services.
Madeline Jenkins is a Sophomore student at the University of Oregon. She lives just a few blocks away from campus, so it usually is not a problem to simply walk to class. However, getting to her job is much more difficult. Madeline works at Pegasus Pizza in South Eugene, which is an hour’s walk from her house. It is possible for her to use the LTD system to get to work in about 30 minutes, but Madeline has chosen not to ride public transit after a negative experience in the past.
According to Madeline, “It has usually been positive, but recently my experiences have been quite negative with the EmX in particular.” She was accompanying one of her friends who was riding the EmX downtown in order to catch the Bolt Bus to Portland. Due to the scheduling of the Bolt Bus, they knew that if they did not catch the next EmX bus, her friend would miss the Bolt Bus. With this in mind, the two hurried towards Walnut Station in order to catch the next EmX bus. As they approached the crosswalk, the bus pulled into the station, and would be departing in just a few minutes. The pair was waiting for the pedestrian cross light, but were waved across by the only driver on the road. They ran across the street and boarded the bus, only to be verbally harassed over the loudspeaker by the bus driver. Madeline recalled that “The driver began to scold us, and it began to get very uncomfortable.” Once they reached Eugene Station, Madeline offered a sincere apology to the driver, but it was only met with silence. “After that situation, I have started refusing to take the EmX and leaving my house earlier,” said Madeline, describing why this one instance has caused her to avoid the LTD’s public transit system ever since.
In the next few years, LTD will continue its expansion of the EmX intoWest Eugene, and increase the reach of the public transit system. However,despite this growth, it’s unlikely that Madeline will change her decision. She would like to see improvements in LTD driver training as well as general consistency before she will be willing to rely on the EmX again. Until then, she is happy to continue avoiding public transit and instead commuting either on foot or by bike.