Transportation Difficulties Keep Half a Million People at Home

Portrait of sad lonely pensive old senior woman

It's startling! According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS):

  • Fifteen million people in this country have difficulties getting the transportation they need. Of these, 40 percent are individuals with disabilities.
  • More than 3.5 million people in this country never leave their homes. Of these, 54 percent are individuals with disabilities.
  • Nationwide, about 560,000 individuals with disabilities indicate they never leave home because of transportation difficulties.

That's not even new news—the BTS conducted their nationwide study in 2002 and announced those findings the following year.

Seattle is considered very walkable. WalkScore says Seattle is "rapidly becoming a world-class walkable city." But in our region, where we're blessed with beautiful hills, some neighborhoods are virtually unwalkable, especially for older adults and individuals with physical disabilities.

Learn how to take advantage of Metro's online Trip Planner.

We have good transit, for transit riders who are fully ambulatory and can afford the fare. Fortunately, older adults and residents with disabilities have additional options, if you know how to access them. A good place to start is King County Metro—the free Metro Trip Planner and Metro Accessible Services.

I must point out that access is threatened as transit agencies cut operations due to budget shortfalls—not just in King County but across the state. The Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services and members of the Washington State Senior Lobby have long advocated for affordable public transit services, funding for special needs transportation, and pedestrian safety through letter writing, testimony, and public forums.

In this issue of AgeWise King County, we offer information on four programs or services that may help you take advantage of public transit in the near future. We are grateful to King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Council for offering lower fares for low-income residents (see Metro to Offer Reduced Fare for Qualified Low-income Riders).

We are thankful that Aging and Disability Services receives and then invests state and federal funds in Volunteer Transportation (see Car Talk: Rides Foster Interesting Conversation).

We think Hopelink's travel training programs should be considered by every community-based organization that works with immigrants, refugees, veterans, residents with limited English and/or low-income residents (see Hopelink Travel Program Helps Take the Fear Out of Public Transit).

And we marvel at the continuing ingenuity of University of Washington students, who created OneBusAway in the late 1990s and are now developing StopInfo for OneBusAway, an app that will help make buses more usable by people with limited vision (see StopInfo for OneBusAway Helps Low Vision Bus Riders and Others).

The King County Mobility Coalition offers videos in English, Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, Nepali, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tigrinya and Vietnamese.

Finally, I would like to take a moment to recognize the good work of the King County Mobility Coalition, which comprises special needs transportation service providers, advocates, and funders throughout King County, including an Aging and Disability Services planner. Last month, the Mobility Coalition and the Northwest Universal Design Council (which includes ADS Advisory Council representation) joined forces to present Community Mobility & Universal Design as part of the 2014 Seattle Design Festival. Read more about it at www.environmentsforall.org/SDF14.

This fall, keep moving and stay connected. Ride the bus and do both!

Contributor Tony Provine is serving his second term as chair of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, which publishes AgeWise King County. He welcomes input from readers via e-mail (advisorychair@agewisekingcounty.org) as well as applicants for open positions on the council, when they occur. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.