Street Stories: Barbara Henry

Name, age, any personal identities you feel like sharing, neighborhood where you live, who you live with/care for, the school you go to, type of work you do or hope to do.

My name is Barbara Henry. I’m 48, and I live in Providence. I live with my 20-year-old son, who has autism. He still goes to school. I have a master’s degree in social work, but I care and advocate for him.

How do you typically travel around Providence, and how does it affect your life and taking care of your family?

I walk, and I take the bus. Living in Providence, it’s a lot easier taking the bus. Well, I want to point out that I am blind. I did advocate for audio announcements. For example, when you get on the bus, it would say, “you’re approaching Manton Avenue.” I feel that’s helpful for everyone, not just blind people. What if you were new to the bus system? It’s very important. When the bus approaches, it should say what the bus number is out loud or even when the buses turn for safety.

With traffic and the way they’re making cars and buses now, they’re so quiet. There are many distractions when you’re walking, and you may not hear the bus coming, so it’s important to have those announcements.

Also, the sidewalks are so important. I feel that they need to be smooth and clean. When I approach something using my cane, I can remove it if it’s in the way. It just shows that you respect where you are. It represents dignity in the neighborhood you live in.

What are your views on how the elimination of Kennedy Plaza as the Central Bus Hub will affect you and the people you know?

Well, they didn’t give the public a lot of input on that. I feel that the public really needs to advocate how they feel about this. Where are the buses going to go? We have a very high number of elderly people in this state. We have the disabled. We have women who take this public transportation. So I feel that we need to speak with the legislators and get more proactive about it.

How would you ideally like to get around Providence, and what would need to happen to make that a reality?

On the weekends, the bus service could run a little better. And my concern is also wintertime. In the winters, the sidewalks and the bus stops need to be shoveled more. The bus stops could use some shelters and some benches. It would just be more appealing.

Do you feel safe when traveling around Providence? Where do you feel safe, and where do you not?

I think this is an excellent question. I feel safer traveling around Providence than outside of Providence. When you start going outside of Providence and take public transportation, the transportation becomes extremely limited. So when you have to stand at a bus stop for an hour, or sometimes over an hour, it places you at risk. It puts you at risk as a woman for many dangerous things. And I believe that you are safer in Providence because there are more buses and you can walk to things. You have more of a police presence. There are more streetlights in Providence. When you leave Providence and go to certain areas, it’s extremely dark, which also places you at risk.

How could the City or RIPTA improve your experience getting around?

I think RIPTA needs to respect the passengers because they don’t have a job without us. Yeah, this relationship is reciprocal. So we need RIPTA, and RIPTA needs us. We shouldn’t be fighting against one another. We should be working together. We should be working to improve the community to make things better, and not this backlash. When a passenger gets on? We should be treated with respect. And we should respect the bus driver.

Is there anything else that you want to add?

There are a lot of areas in the state of Rhode Island that have no bus service. I feel that bus service needs to expand because it creates jobs. I don’t understand why there isn’t bus service in many areas in the state of Rhode Island when it can empower people to get employment, especially with COVID. Right now, a lot of people lost their jobs. Lost housing. So I think that once again, we really can work together and empower our state and just stop this negative vibe and really work together.