Disabled transit rider lives out her own nightmarish warnings

By Dan Aznoff | Apr 07, 2017
Photo by: Carolyn Drake Jerry Dempsey waits at the Canyon Park Park and Ride to assist his friend Donna Kessler and her service dog, Victoria, catch the Community Transit bus to visit friends in Mill Creek.  The elderly pair described themselves as only a small sample of the people who live along Route 106 who would be impacted by the proposed changes to bus service.

The dire scenario that Mill Creek resident Carolyn Drake had cautioned officials about became a painful reality for the disabled bus rider only days after her meeting with Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath.

Drake went to her primary care physician at the Everett Clinic after a fall in her shower. When her doctor ordered additional tests that could only be done at the clinic’s main campus, her mishap turned into a nine-hour ordeal of connections and transfers.

“It may be hard for you to imagine, but this is the harsh reality of my life,” Drake wrote to Heath in a follow-up note after their meeting last month.

Drake has been waging a one-person campaign against the proposed changes to Community Transit Routes 106 and 115 on the Bothell-Everett Highway and serves the Mays Pond community. She met with the CEO to explain her dependence on bus service and how much the new routes would impact her life.

“The vast majority of disabled people have issues with transfer, multiple-seat rides that you envision for CT’s future,” she wrote. “This population will be desperately impacted by the proposed change to Route 115 which will eliminate service from Mariner Park and Ride to 164th Street.”

The retired labor attorney said CT drivers have told her that Community Transit abandoned service along the same route several years ago when ridership failed to meet expectations.

Her concerns extend to the group of 20 disabled students from Jackson High School who will be forced to walk even further from campus to pick up the Community Transit coach that serves the school.

“Who is going to tell the parents of one of those students that their kid was killed because the planners from Community Transit did not care enough about their kid to accommodate their special needs?”

Her solution would be expanded service along Route 106 to serve the 35th Avenue corridor and provide more direct service to the University of Washington and Boeing.

She went on to say that Mill Creek residents are now paying the highest sales tax rate in the state, but getting less service than they deserve.

Councilmember Mike Todd, who serves on the CT Board of Directors, said the agency has added service to serve the broadest number of riders as possible with a limited budget. He indicated rider surveys and public comment have indicated riders want service for longer hours and better frequency along realigned routes.

“There will always be tradeoffs when routes are realigned,” Todd told The Beacon. “As a board member, I think (Mill Creek) residents want to see the process run its course, have staff report on the full range of customer input and advise us on the best way to deliver the service that voters have asked us to provide.”

Drake’s reply was that neither Todd nor Heath can relate to the burden that transfers create for riders, handicapped or not, because they are not dependent on bus service as their only means of transportation.

“I’ve said it before, Mr. Todd, Mr. Heath and the rest of the CT board need to throw down their car keys and ride the bus with the rest of us so they can understand what these changes will mean to the quality of our lives.”

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.