Citizenship Lab students advocate for increased shelter, seating at Durham bus stops

Two Duke students who participated in the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ Citizenship Lab have used their experience interacting with local refugee youth to advocate for better infrastructure as part of Durham’s public transportation system.

The Durham Herald-Sun published June 15 an op-ed from Snehan Sharma and Olivia Simpson in which the students note that many Durham bus stops lack shelter, seating or sidewalks, creating hardships for community members who regularly rely on buses to travel around the city. Sharma, Simpson and other students who paired academic research with real-world practice through Kenan’s Citizenship Lab, organized through Bass Connections, rode buses with Durham high school students from refugee backgrounds, interviewed passengers and evaluated the safety of stops.

In an op-ed for the Durham Herald-Sun, students Snehan Sharma and Olivia Simpson advocate for improved infrastructure for Durham’s bus riders, including more seating and shelter.

“The six million people who use GoDurham transit annually are relying on buses to get to work, buy groceries, visit clinics and so on,” Sharma and Simpson write. “As long-time residents are priced farther and farther out of the city’s core, it’s vital not only that we continue to invest in transit but that we ensure our investments reflect the interests of everyone.”

In recent years, more than 2,500 refugees have resettled in the Triangle from countries like Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan. To explore challenges faced by these new residents and enhance refugee civic participation, the Citizenship Lab has connected Duke students with high school-aged youth to understand the connections between social science research engagement and citizenship.

In their piece, Sharma and Simpson encouraged Durham leaders to provide an more direct method for residents to share concerns about public transportation and lobby for transit improvements.

“Listening to stakeholders reminds us that strategic responsiveness to downtown development while ignoring longtime riders in other places is short-sighted,” they write. “Stakeholders also remind us that it is creative problem-solving that is truly needed, not another recitation of the reasons why improvements can’t be made.”

Read the full op-ed on the Herald-Sun website and watch the video below for more insight on Kenan’s Citizenship Lab.