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Andrew Van Gorp 29 November, 2016.

(800 words)

2013: A young, naive, freshly-graduated Andrew Van Gorp was appointed to a three year term as an Environmental Commissioner for the Village of Glen Ellyn, swearing an oath to uphold and protect the United States Constitution. In brief, he thought he was hot sh*t. He’s had many small wins over his term, but autumn of 2016 brought his first BIG WIN.

As he entered the volunteer Commission he voiced to his fellow commissioners the one thousand project ideas that he hoped to achieve during his three-year tenure. As you all know, he’s a Sustainable Community Development geek.

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One of those ideas was that he thought Glen Ellyn needed more bus infrastructure, specifically heated bus shelters. It may not seem consequential to the uninitiated, but bus shelters are VERY CRUCIAL. Here’s why.

SCENARIO:

Install a heated bus shelter. When it’s raining, bus-riders are protected. When it’s snowing, bus-riders are kept alive with warmth. This creates a non-hell-like rider experience. More people decide to ride the bus.

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A photo of 60 people and the amount of road space they take up based on different modes of transportation.

Roads become less congested. Quality of life improves with less traffic. City planners no longer need to beg for yet another lane-widening project, which would actually just add to road congestion anyway. Less impermeable surfaces are needed. With less traffic, the air becomes less fatal for local neighborhoods to breathe. More groundwater is absorbed directly into the ground and streams begin to rebound with less salt runoff.

So really, if you care about air health, water health, soil health, animal health, and/or human health, then you should definitely care about bus shelters too. Especially since the Village of Glen Ellyn has no heated bus shelters (and barely any bus shelters to begin with #notsayinjustsayin). A young and enthusiastic Andrew Van Gorp asked at an EC meeting if we could change that, way back in 2013.

The Village put Andrew in contact with PACE. PACE let the Village know that the Village had bought a bus shelter many years previously and never installed it- so it was sitting in PACE storage. Andrew asked if maybe we could… install it… since… we… had… already… paid for it?

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A great idea! We met with PACE and went through a list of best intersections. Andrew was really pulling for a spot on Roosevelt, since thousands of people pass through our Village every day and watch as people on the side of the road are forced to stand unprotected from the cold, wind, and/or precipitation at multiple stops. He tried to make the argument that it might appear to many commuters that Glen Ellyn doesn’t really care much about the planet or its Villagers by not providing necessary infrastructure for active transportation.

Unfortunately, the sidewalk is designed right up to the curb in many places along Roosevelt (anyone who’s ever walked there knows how horrifying of an experience it is as semi-trucks zoom by within a few inches of your body and you are just praying to the Good Lord Jesus that you don’t trip on the quilt-work of uneven brick, broken cement, and puckered asphalt). Since the path’s so close to the curb, and the streetlight posts are posted in the center of the “walking path” there is no space for a bus shelter. Bummer.

Andrew asked if PACE might consider putting a bus shelter the next street over to the South (on Taft Avenue running parallel to Roosevelt) so that people waiting for the bus didn’t have to breathe in the micro-particulate matter of uncombusted fossil fuels from the motor fumes of Roosevelt Road. He thought, why should making the choice that’s better for the planet come at the cost of adenocarcinoma? PACE said they don’t track the hazard of particulate matter exposure for their customers along their bus routes and that it would be too costly to place new bus shelters in low-particulate areas that might be slightly off of their regular route. Bummer.

Ultimately, we decided on an intersection at the College of DuPage campus. After all, increasing student ridership would fall in line with national investment trends. And so, in September of this year, the bus shelter was installed. Who knows? Maybe a strapped college student will be protected from the rain while waiting to be driven home some day and think, “hey, this isn’t so bad” and become a lifelong bus rider. 

I did that. My three-year-crusade that started as a dream for a Village-wide installation plan for heated bus shelters shriveled down into installing a bus shelter that we’d already bought and never used. Someday, once I’m a Village Trustee, I can rev back up the ol’ heated-bus-shelter-near-every-major-intersection gag. But for now, I’m pretty damned proud of myself and thankful that the Village of Glen Ellyn empowered me with the ability to make a change by serving as an Environmental Commissioner.

LESSON: Never doubt the power you have to change the world. If you give a sh*t, if you show up to meetings, if you do what you say you’re going to do, you can do anything!

Rock on DuPagers.

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