I live in Yakima and work as a Department of Services for the Blind. I rely on paratransit to get around, but that’s a challenge because transit service stops running at 6 p.m. I’m in a band, and before COVID, having no transit options in the evening made it difficult to participate in band practice, along with any other evening community activities.

I work as an assistive technology specialist, which means I help other blind people across the state get the technology they need to find and do their jobs. Many of the people I work with rely on having reliable public transportation to be able to work. In many parts of our state, transit schedules are limited, meaning I’ve worked with people who have lost jobs because they can’t get reliable transportation.

A lot of people who can’t drive live on their own and don’t have a way to be a part of the community. I hope our elected leaders can find a fair and equitable way to fund better transit and paratransit services, because there are a lot of people that need them.

I would like to see more systems adopt a “zero fare” approach like Intercity Transit in Olympia, so that the cost of a bus pass isn’t a barrier for people who need to get places. I would also like transit services to start earlier in the morning and run later at night. In too many of our communities, limited transit service hours mean disabled folks can’t hold jobs or participate fully in our communities.

As our elected leaders in Olympia are discussing how to invest in the future of our transportation system, I want them to consider the perspective of people who can’t drive. People without driver’s licenses make up 25% of the population, and we know that especially right now in this moment of economic crisis, there are many other people out there who can’t afford to own or drive a vehicle. It’s time to start listening to our needs, and investing in reliable, accessible and affordable public transit across our state.

Reginald George of Yakima is a certified assistive technology instructional specialist with Washington State Services for the Blind.