Opinion: To Reduce Emissions, Listen to Those Who Don't Drive

An initiative to promote pedestrian-oriented infrastructure investments in Washington state highlights the lessons that policymakers can learn from people who rely on walking and public transit.

2 minute read

February 12, 2021, 6:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Pedestrians

1000 Words / Shutterstock

With transportation emissions accounting for almost half of Washington state's greenhouse gas emissions, making a meaningful impact calls for a reduction in reliance on personal vehicles. What better source for learning about a car-free lifestyle, asks Anna Zivarts, than those who already don't drive? A quarter of Washingtonians don't have driver's licenses, and many more don't own cars due to high maintenance costs, health issues, or personal choice. Yet policymakers consistently fail to design public infrastructure that effectively serves pedestrians and transit-dependent people.

"To get where we need to go in a system not designed for us, those of us who can’t drive have become experts in weaving together bus schedules across counties, in planning our grocery trips and doctor’s appointments days in advance so we can request rides. We have figured out how to patch together accessible ways to get to the local community center, and to cross highways that not only block fish passage, they keep us from visiting our neighbors. And if you ask us, we can tell you exactly what kinds of investments are needed to make it possible for more people to be less dependent on driving."

To bring these issues to light, the Disability Mobility Initiative is creating a storymap that features "interviews with people from across our state who rely on transit, paratransit, walking, rolling or community rides." The initiative aims to highlight how a lack of accessible infrastructure makes more people reliant on cars and suggest investments that can lead to a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable transportation system.

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