Written by Sylvia Fuerstenberg, former executive director, The Arc of King County
Some of you emailed and called me to report that you heard me on KUOW and Kiro7 News! The reports were about proposed changes to the process related to acquiring and using the disability placards. I shared with the reporters that I felt it was hard enough for folks to get the placard and use them without further complications to the system. Transportation, if you have a disability, is hard enough without making it harder In case you missed either story, here are the links:
What I really want them to report on is how the proposed cuts in metro transit will impact the lives of people with disabilities. For most people with disabilities using public transit is a way of life every day… to get to work, school, recreation, and worship, and to connect with family and friends. Using public transit is already a bit of work if you do not drive, often requiring several buses and transfers. Many others use an Access van which takes you anywhere a Metro bus or Sound Transit light rail goes at that time and on that day of the week. If the bus service is cut, the Access van availability will also be cut for those who need it.
Personally, I ride a local bus that only runs during rush hour. It is completely full by the time it hits the highway to Seattle. This packed bus is also used by several people with disabilities who ride it to work in downtown Seattle. This Metro route is slated to be eliminated “due to low ridership”. Yet, it is always full when I ride it. If routes like this are cut, local neighborhood commuters will be forced into their cars to go to already overfilled park and ride lots, creating more congestion and further crowding other completely jammed bus routes. Those buses are typically overcrowded to the extreme, often not even stopping to pick up new riders because there is simply no room.
How would a person with a disability board one of these overflowing buses? I recently spoke to a young woman with whom I ride the bus. She and her husband have physical disabilities and pride themselves on their jobs and self-sufficiency. She is contemplating taking a second bus to another route which will add an extra 20 minutes and a two block walk to her commute. She is only one example of many people who will be impacted by the changes proposed to transit by the new budget.
Not funding good public transportation in our region will affect everyone and undermine our ability to be productive, get to work, and have a good quality of life. The crowded roads, and the meager bus and rail services need to be expanded for us to have a vibrant, healthy community, and to relieve congestion on our already crowded roads. We need a world-class transportation network that allows all people to move freely around King County and the Puget Sound region.