If you live in North Shore in the Eastern Coachella Valley -- and you don’t have a car -- you better have plenty of patience. There's only one bus line, Line 95, and it comes only once every three hours.
North Shore sits about 20 miles south of Coachella. It’s sandy, hot and dusty. There’s no grocery store and no medical clinic. Some parts of the remote hamlet have a spectacular view of the Salton Sea, once a playground for the Palm Springs set, now a polluted cesspool that you can smell when the wind picks up.
I teamed up with youth journalists from Coachella Unincorporated to spend a day riding Line 95. Residents are grateful for the line. Until a few years ago, there was no bus service here at all.
People ride the bus to buy groceries, go to the doctor, get to school. But many residents still have to walk a mile or two to the nearest bus stop, and wait in the heat. Bus stops here are just a stick in the sand -- no shade, no bench. In the summer, it can reach over 120 degrees.
Neighbors like Conchita Pozar are worried about their kids having to wait for the bus in that kind of heat.
"It’s so hot, and if you have kids that are 2 or 3 years old, or newborns you have to take to the doctor, they’re waiting out there in the heat," says Pozar in Spanish. "It just doesn’t seem fair. Some people here pay $30 to $40 to get a ride in a car instead of waiting for the bus. People here can’t afford that. There should be shade and benches to sit on."
A group of neighbors gathered at Pozar’s house recently to talk about solutions. They’re proposing homemade shade structures, made from scraps of wood and mesh screens -- a simple template to show bus company officials and others how easy it would be to provide some kind of shade.
"There’s a definitely a lack of infrastructure," says health educator Daisy Ramirez, who led the meeting. "It seems like these communities are being built without, really, the simple structures that we see in other areas. There’s no sidewalks, there’s no light at night."
"In the Eastern Coachella Valley, it’s a working community,” adds Ramirez. "Kids’ parents are often out working in the fields when they need transportation to school, to the library, to even just go to a park or play soccer. Having transportation really provides them this opportunity to have access to jobs and just be able to thrive in an area that doesn’t seem to have these opportunities for them here."