Transportation funding needs to consider people who don’t drive | Guest Viewpoint

John Frasca
Posted 2/10/21

I have ALS and use a power wheelchair. I use the Jefferson transit buses to get around Port Townsend. 

For scheduled appointments, I use Dial-A-Ride (a reservation-based paratransit service). …

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Transportation funding needs to consider people who don’t drive | Guest Viewpoint

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I have ALS and use a power wheelchair. I use the Jefferson transit buses to get around Port Townsend. 

For scheduled appointments, I use Dial-A-Ride (a reservation-based paratransit service). I am grateful that the Jefferson Transit buses are accessible and that the drivers and dispatch staff are always helpful and courteous.

Up until 2017 I drove a car, and I do feel more limited now that I cannot drive. I must plan ahead. 

It used to be that if I needed something to make dinner, I could just jump in the car and go down to the co-op. Now I do not have that option. I now have my groceries delivered every two weeks.

I also miss events that are on Sunday because Jefferson Transit buses do not operate on Sunday. 

When I go to Seattle for medical care, I must pay for a hotel to spend the night because there is not a bus that can get me to an early Kitsap fast ferry that runs from Kingston to Seattle. 

It is too bad that our limited funding for public transportation results in limited mobility for people who cannot drive. People without driver’s licenses make up 25 percent of the population, and we know that especially right now in this time of economic crisis, there are many other people out there who cannot afford to own or drive a vehicle.

As for getting around Port Townsend, I live uptown and my wheelchair has good range, so I can go downtown for theater or concerts. But there are other places I cannot go. Fort Worden is only two miles from home, but the roads have no sidewalks. I am just not comfortable riding on the side of these roads. 

I also avoid going out at night, even just to the library across the street, because it is too hard to see uneven or broken places on the sidewalk. I am afraid I will go off the edge. 

Generally, I think Port Townsend has been responsive to the local disability community’s work to get the city to put in proper curb cuts and make sidewalk repairs. But there is always more work to do and not enough funding.

For instance, for the 2021-23 grant cycle, WSDOT received 242 applications requesting $190 million (https://wsdot.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2020/12/03/2021-2023-Bike-Ped-SRTS-Priortized-Project-List.pdf) for Safe Routes to School and Pedestrian and Bicycle Program grants. However, WSDOT anticipates only being able to support less than 20 percent of the proposals with available funding. Here is a map that shows the exact location of unfunded bicycle, pedestrian and safe routes to school projects, statewide (www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1LT_CKjpAmx2DBo9IkhAGmop6KT7KUURJ&ll=32.72154968654055%2C-92.41699249999999&z=4 ). 

The demand for pedestrian access is probably even greater — many jurisdictions have given up on applying because the chance of getting funding does not make it worth the time to write up the grant application.

As our elected leaders in Olympia are discussing how to invest in the future of our transportation system, I want them to consider our perspective, as people who cannot drive (www.disabilityrightswa.org/storymap).

We also need to be able to get around, to visit friends and family, go shopping, and get outdoors. 

We need accessible sidewalks and transit stops in every single community. 

Let’s make sure our transportation funding priorities reflect this and ensure every Washingtonian the right to access and connection.

[John Frasca is a Port Townsend resident and disability advocate who encourage public funding for transportation including sidewalks. He serves on the board of the DASH Project (Disability Awareness Starts Here) DASH Project – voice for all people with disabilities, and the board of the ACAC (Accessible Community Advisory Committee) that is coordinated by the Jefferson County Department of Health.]

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