Do you know why it’s called ICT?
One of the first things I learned when I moved to Wichita was that some people swap the title Wichita and ICT, seemingly inexplicably to me. Then I learned, when Wichita Intercontinental Airport was being given it’s designation the FCC prohibited airports from having a name with the letters “K” or “W” in the call sign, thus ICT was born.
My official residence in Wichita, KS began last June. It took me some weeks to move here slowly and in loads driven down from Manhattan, KS: “the Little Apple” they call it. I knew since I was very young that Wichita was the famed “largest city in Kansas!”
First impressions of Wichita were that yes, it was large and I am seriously directionally challenged-often lost in this maze of a place. I had grown up in a place that for most of my life had no mall. To be in a city that had not one, but two! Wowza!
Quite a marvelous feat, I thought, to be able to support two whole malls and still not have them be the sole epicenter of shopping and livelihood. There was so much potential for varieties of food and to meet people of all sorts from around the globe (potentially mind you).
The magic and wonderment dwindled with robust rapidity. I could not and still can not find a satisfactory truly Greek restaurant in town to serve a magnificent Greek pasta. The political and religious diversity leaves quite a lot to be desired. My first solace was found at a restaurant, in a glass of sangria. I hadn’t had many glasses of sangria in my day, but dang it was mighty good and hit the olfactory nerves I needed hitting just then. The sangria was poured divinely by my server Bradley. Bradley didn’t make me feel like the sad lonely person sitting by herself in the middle of a summer day on a restaurant patio. He happily came out to make sure I was doing alright, and we made the best small talk I could have hoped for. Bradley became the reason I would return to that restaurant, and I told him if the food was better I would have gone to see him more.
Bradley is now on to bigger and better things than that first restaurant I met him at over a year ago. He has been my go-to guide since my relocation. I have been given hope that not everyone in Wichita lives in their own little bubble of a life and bemoans anytime they have to drive “all the way across town!”
My dearest Bradley is what I would consider a Wichita native. He dislikes the label. Bradley is old enough to know what’s what and has had a less than easy life by most standards. For a time he was homeless in Colorado when he was still technically in his teens. Having divorced parents has put him in different homes across two states more than once, he’s not alone.
When Bradley was just two years old he made his first arrival in Wichita. Subsequently he has returned to reside here eight times, that he can recall directly. After many discussions, he and I have conceded that it is relatively less expensive to live in Wichita than a large portion of Kansas, assuming city living. I chatted briefly with Bradley this past week on his thoughts and opinions about Wichita, from a mostly Wichita-native point of view.
When I first arrived to Wichita, I genuinely didn’t a motorized vehicle. I didn’t need one in Manhattan- it’s a very small city. So, I was absurd in assuming that Wichita, being such a vast metropolis would be more commuter and bicycle commuter friendly. Public transportation surely! I was wrong, more than dead wrong, I should have done more research. Silly me.
According to BikeLeague.org which has the League of American Bicyclists since 1880, Kansas as a state ranks 46 out of all 50. (inwardly I’m fuming, how did Oklahoma outrank us?!)
Who did we “beat?”
#47 South Carolina
In the entire state of Kansas there are only a grand total of three biking friendly communities; Lawrence, KS, Manhattan, KS, and Shawnee, KS. Boulder, Colorado tops the list in Biking Friendly communities with a population of approximately one-third that of Wichita. On the same list on Kansas’ biking un-friendliness, there is zero biking friendly universities, which is not surprising but still astonishing to me. There are 36 institutions that call themselves a University, not including community colleges that could have gotten some sort of biking friendly label, and none have done so.
Bikeability in Wichita is near impossible unless your commute is fairly direct-route. I seldom see an actual commuter unless I’m up at the ungodly hours when the sun is yet to crest the horizon. The lack of biking lanes, proper road maintenance, signals and motorist knowledge of bicyclers rights makes this city a very dangerous adventure to attempt to cycle-commute. More power to those who can manage it, I salute you!
Bradley shares a car with his partner, but often is on his bicycle to and from work. He and I lament at length that the Wichita Transit System could make a world of difference in this city, if it were improved. Not only for traffic congestion! In Bradley’s words,
“If I could change something in Wichita it would probably be the public transportation system, ‘cause it just sucks.”
If the city were able to expand and increase the bus routes they have, then more riders would be inclined and able to utilize the system. I take the bus to school in hopes of making myself stay on campus to get more work done in a study-friendly environment. I also don’t want to pay to park or deal with parking space hunting. The bus that traverses campus is regularly crowded, especially in the morning and mid afternoons. Currently the East 17th Street bus does hourly loops. There is usually two buses going on the loop at any given time. The city buses have free wifi and are not nearly as bad as some cities have it, I do not suggest G searching for dirty bus photos. The buses can only hold two bikes on the racks mounted to the fronts. There is only room for two wheelchairs on each bus and often the East 17th Street bus is late. Too many riders, too many stops needed for them to get on and off, and the cycle perpetuates itself. No one wants to ride if they’re going to be late, so ridership declines.
On the other hand, I don’t enjoy taking the 6:20am bus as I am the opposite of a morning person. But I have to make sure I’m not late to my 8am course. If I chance the 7:20am bus I risk being late, I’ll pass on that embarrassment for the most part, thanks. I would love a city that was more accessible without a car, most biking paths are ones you have to either ride to or risk the city streets to get to. If I could have a public transportation wish in the world right now, it might include wishing people who rode the bus would get off when someone else pulls the stop requested signal, two blocks away from where they need to be and just get off and walk instead of adding seemingly twenty extra stops. And more buses.
I’m the minority on the bus, I am a college-aged female who happens to be caucasian of a very pale sort. The majority of my fellow bus riders are not my race. Where I grew up, I was also the minority in school and in my neighborhood. It almost feels like home. Almost. There is such a feeling of discomfort when my fellow bus riders would rather stand than sit in the politely empty seat next to me. Then I see a career-dressed younger white female who won’t move her purse for a toddler to have a seat. I feel that if bus riding were utilized by everyone more readily people could be happier with their fellow bus riders, happier with their city and the opportunities available to them even though they might live on the “wrong” side of town. I still ride with a hopeful mindset that the city surely isn’t as segregated as it has seemed for the past year.
Buses don’t run past 7pm on weekdays, on Saturday the buses stop at 6pm. There is no Sunday bus services. If you work in customer service, retail, food service or a labor job you are almost certainly working past 7pm on at least some weekdays and almost always are required to be available on Sundays. If Wichita was more realistic in their transportation for the public, I suggest asking the public which uses their transportation first, to meet the needs of the people, not the ones who have fat pockets.
In 2013 Wichita held a rate of unemployment at 6.4% and the median household income was just shy of $50k. The average ticket for a movie at Wichita area Warren Movie Theatres is $10. Going to the Sedgwick County Zoo for an adult runs $13.95 before tax. Going to a public golf course can run the gamut in prices, fees and equipment. The activities available for people to be social and enjoy the city are limited and can be quite costly. If the city as a whole wanted to be able to create more economic growth or simply satisfaction in the city we live in, the way we traverse the city seems like a good place to start in my mind.
For now, I’ll catch the 6:20am bus twice a week and deal with what I can. Maybe during my stay here things will change, I can only hope.