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Snohomish County Leaders participate in the Week Without Driving Challenge

Updated: Nov 3


For the week of October 22 to 29, Disability Rights Washington and supportive organizations (including Snotrac) hosted a "Week Without Driving Challenge" for the region's leaders.


The purpose was to highlight the struggles of the 25 percent of Washingtonians who are unable to drive due to ability, age, or others reasons.


In Snohomish County, several leaders took the challenge.

  • Cassie Franklin, Everett Mayor

  • Jennifer Gregerson, Mukilteo Mayor

  • Tom Hingson, Everett Transit Director

  • Ric Ilgenfritz, Community Transit CEO

  • June Robinson, State Senator (Dist. 38)

  • Emily Wicks, State Representative (Dist. 38)

  • April Berg, State Representative (Dist. 44)

  • Megan Dunn, Snohomish County Councilmember

  • Luke Distelhorst, Edmonds Councilmember

  • Erin Murray, Mountlake Terrace Councilmember

  • Roland Behee, Community Transit Director of Planning and Development

  • Christina Strand, Community Transit Administrative Assistant

  • Brock Howell, Snotrac Director

  • Owen Lee, Edmonds Youth Commission Chair

  • Tyler Rourke, Everett Transportation Advisory Committee Chair

Here are their thoughts from the week:


Cassie Franklin, Everett Mayor


Challenges: feeling trapped if I didn’t want to brave the downpour of rain and not having the freedom to hop in my car whenever I want.


Positives: I’ve spent more time outside and enjoyed both nature and a slower pace.


Read tweet thread


Jennifer Gregerson, Mukilteo Mayor


I've really valued the week! It's made me think more about my trips, and get more committed to winter biking.


Barriers for me are usually time and distance; I'm confident with most roads in Mukilteo that I use and am proud to have added bike lanes to some of the most frequently used spots: all of Harbour Pointe Blvd, 84th Street, and the new Harbour Reach Drive.

In the past, when I've biked to appointments in south Everett, there are a lot of places with limited or insufficient infrastructure. As a bicyclist, you just have to have that extra awareness, making more eye contact and second guessing drivers. I'm very lucky to not have had any crashes or incidents as a bicyclist (other than my own issue, slipping on some ice outside my house a couple winters ago!).


One evening in particular stands out, and it's a minor thing-- my boyfriend got his COVID booster shot this week, so he felt pretty terrible for a couple days. I had a super long day, and we just felt like getting some takeout. We thought about getting delivery- but it is so expensive and takes so much time! So, he mustered up some strength to get dressed and drive out to pick up dinner. Kind of a silly moment, but it also made me recognize the value of having a support network, and the challenges, tradeoffs, and planning that is needed. On another day, I might have made sure to bike to a spot to grab something on my way home, or decided earlier so I could bike to a closer restaurant that was still open. And, a bus wasn't an option at that hour.


The weather was not an obstacle (other than the severe winds during the stormy day), but definitely limited the distances I was willing to travel by bike and the extra time I needed to ensure I looked presentable in time for an appointment!


Tom Hingson, Everett Transit Director


I can walk or ride by bike. It's about a half mile to bus stop one and another half mile to the Swift stop at 148th/Hwy 99. The bus stop does not have a shelter or even a semi seat to sit on. Lighting is poor. The bus arrives at 6:50 or 7:20. 6:50 is too early for my 8:00 start time at Everett Station and 7:20 is a gamble whether or not I will connect with the 7:30 Swift which arrives at the station right around 8:00 on a good day. I gave up about 15 min of morning sleep and had to reschedule my Zoom reading time with my grandkids, normally at 5:30 p.m. to 5:50 p.m. - pushing dinner to 6:30 p.m. and often giving up dinner with my wife who like to eat by 6:00 p.m. I gave up the comfort of a climate controlled car and my heated seat. I shortened my lunch time so I could leave 15 minutes earlier to catch the evening bus.


No matter what combination I used, walking, biking busing is about twice as long as driving. Weather conditions this week, especially the wind, made bike riding feel a little more unsafe. Debris on the road was not an impassable barrier but I had to watch out and adjust for it.


I enjoyed the exercise and learning that with the right gear, I can do this in all kinds of weather. I enjoyed the extra hour a day to listen to music or an audio book. I didn't interact with any knew people but I did observe some interesting activities on the bus. Not all of them wholesome. I rode the Interurban Trail from East Casino to Colby and that was fun. I hadn't taken it in more than a year.


I did drive my wife to a dinner party in Kirkland on Sunday night. I learned that if I was to do the trip without a car it would have taken 2 hrs and 23 min, a fifteen minute walk, four buses (one traveling 6 miles north so I could go south) and a 15 minute walk at the end of the bus ride. I'd arrive more than an hour early and be able to stay just an hour, because service on Sundays ends in the early evening. In short - I wouldn't have gone to the dinner. At least not on a bus.


I also learned that the layers you wear for walking and waiting for a bus are more than what you wear to ride a bike and bus and just riding the bus uses the least layers. But walking and biking and then bus riding - the layers and temperatures don't mesh well. The bus ride can be overwhelmingly warm. With a mask, even more uncomfortable. Of all the modes, I enjoyed biking the most.


If the weather is half decent tomorrow, I may ride my bike all the way. About 12 miles.


Ric Ilgenfritz, Community Transit CEO


My #WeekWithoutDriving so far includes two telecommutes and a linked trip on ⁦the ⁦@ShorelineWAGov⁩ #InterurbanTrail and ⁦@MyCommTrans #SwiftBlueLine. Always a good day to #ridethebus.


Read tweet


Emily Wicks, State Representative (Dist. 38)


A huge thanks to Disability Rights Washington, Snotrac, and other notable groups for this opportunity and making this week a success. And thanks to everyone who joined the efforts and built a community around the critical topic of multi-modal transportation.


What were the biggest barriers to getting where you needed to go?

The most significant barriers for me were time, planning, and distance. The additional time to walk to locations and being bound by infrequent bus schedules make transit and walking the less likely choice for non-disabled persons with a car and the ability to drive.


Unfortunately, those who rely on transit because they have a disability, cannot drive, or cannot afford a car, don't have an option and continue to be bound by these barriers.


Planning also added to the barriers. The trip planner is great, but like any technology, it has its limitations. The detailed planning of my day added to the time, and without planning, you can easily miss the bus that would have gotten you somewhere on time.


And distance. I enjoy walking, but I am a slow walker, and I live in constant anxiety about being somewhere on time. The distance to stops can sometimes be a lot, not to mention the terrain you may have to go through to get to a stop. Although I am a non-disabled person, I struggled with uneven pavement, poor weather, gravel roads, and non-existent sidewalks. It can make for a treacherous trip for folks in wheelchairs and those with visual impairments or other disabilities.


Where were the gaps?

Our transit systems do a great job providing options based on budgets, but there are so many more areas of coverage that would connect more people to transit and make it the easier option. More people choosing transit would reduce congestion and move goods and services through our communities more efficiently. It would also support quality of life for the essential workers that support the delivery of these goods and services – those who don't have the option of driving. Some more east/west options would help with movement and reduce some of the longer walking trips.


Were there activities that you gave up?

I gave up on having time to sit down and check my emails and respond on a computer. There were also two or three events that I couldn't attend because the invites came too late to fit into the schedule, or there was not enough time to plan. A lot of people adapted to me, knowing I was doing this challenge. If I continued to do this, I can assume people would begin to disregard my needs or give up on inviting me altogether. I can certainly understand folks needing assistance growing weary of asking for help. Inclusiveness is not always a priority in this world, and part of that is because people don't know the experience of others.


What else did you notice?

As my friend Ly Dia shared, and she is always right, riding transit and walking bonds you to your community. She mentioned that we would have never met had her mom and her been driving at the time. Walking by our house helped us create a relationship, and in this short week, I have met many more of our neighbors.


When you're walking, you start to notice the small things, like the concrete sidewalk that has kitty paws dried into it. And you're just more present because you take things slower. Often, a whole day needs to be planned just to go shopping or do laundry, so taking transit and walking builds patience and mindfulness.


Did it take you longer to get where you needed to be?

Yes. A 3-minute drive to a coffee shop for a meeting took me 30 minutes. So travel that would have been less than 10 minutes was an hour.


Did it take you longer to plan how to get places?

Yes, over the years, Snohomish County has been developed around the use of cars. One reason for that is because we were a rural community from the start. With population growth, we became a bedroom community, then a suburb. As the population increases and more and more people move to this area, continued reliance on cars will add to traffic congestion. By the way, Snohomish County already has the worst congestion of all Puget Sound Counties.

The week before this event, I planned the whole week using the Trip Planner tool. It took away from responding to constituents, meeting with more people and groups, or just spending time with my family. And each day, I checked to make sure everything was in place or adapted to address last-minute scheduled meetings.


Was there infrastructure or environments where you didn't feel safe?

Yes, walking early in the morning when it's dark can be a little scary, especially on unlit streets. Big, steep, unexpected hills combined with the wrong shoes and lack of sidewalks or thin walkways on fast and busy streets make for tragedies.

What parts of your experience did you enjoy?

Walking was great when I didn't feel rushed, and once I was on the bus, I loved traveling through different parts of the community and noticing my surroundings at each stop. And being able to spend time listening to podcasts, the news, music, and books made the experience delightful and therapeutic.


Did you get more physical activity?

Yes! It was great to get out of the house and car and move about the community and Puget Sound!


Did you get to interact with people from your community you don't normally interact with?

I met a few people in my neighborhood. And even if it was just a friendly wave, someone asking for the time, or the mutual acknowledgment that we exist, it was nice to connect with real people and travel together.


Did you see or experience places you don't normally visit?

On my long day, I had the opportunity to visit UW Bothell and Cascadia College. It's also been long since I drove down Lake City Way or Highway 522 through Lake Forest Park and Kenmore. It was great going further south in areas of Bothell and Millcreek. It was interesting seeing the different folks on each bus and learning about their daily routes.


If you do end up having to drive yourself, make note of this. What would you have done if you didn't have this option?

After living in Seattle for a few years, I became a more conscious driver. I was more patient, thoughtful, and mindful of pedestrians, knowing that I was one of them more often.


I think I've been able to carry that with me, but I hope this experience is a good reminder in the case that any of this was lost since I moved back to Snohomish County.


If I didn't have the option of driving myself, I would certainly make different daily decisions. I would maybe choose not to visit a friend or go to an event, not accept a job, not add my input or insight to a community decision, not schedule a health appointment fast enough. The list goes on.


Without the option of driving, I am bound by my location and the places the voters and the government choose to connect to it.


April Berg, State Representative (Dist. 44)


My biggest takeaway is how exhausting it is. As a policymaker, it showed me really how this has to change. This is just me trying it for a week, but for folks who live it we have to do better.


Read Everett Herald article


Luke Distelhorst, Edmonds Councilmember

Luke is also an Outreach and Public Engagement Specialist at Community Transit. My Edmonds News published the following letter from Councilmember Distelhorst


First, I feel it’s important to recognize that I am not living with a disability and am able to walk or bike ride reasonable distances. Mobility considerations play a large role in living car free or car lite, by choice or necessity, and can be a significant barrier when sidewalks and other infrastructure are lacking, which is common in Snohomish County.


However, the Week Without Driving challenge, hosted by Disability Rights Washington and the Disability Mobility Initiative, aimed to allow others to experience what, “a quarter of the people in Washington state – people with disabilities, young people, seniors and people who can’t afford cars or gas,” live with every day.


Working for our county’s public transportation agency I also have a deep knowledge of public transit options, so how hard could it be…? Well…


No matter how much you know, there are a lot of barriers and considerations that impact everyone traveling outside of a car. Part of the challenge was to document both the positives and negatives of your week. Here are a few of my experiences:


Barriers: Frequency of transit service sometimes meant long waits; lack of safe bike riding infrastructure; no sidewalks or inaccessible sidewalks


Things I gave up: Outdoor recreation like hiking in the mountains, which is mostly not accessible without owning, renting, or asking someone with a car to drive you


Time impacts: Yes! Almost every trip took longer than driving


Things I enjoyed: Talking to people! On transit I almost always see someone I know or talk to another rider, even if briefly; also knowing I was reducing my impact on our climate and pollution crises


Things I didn’t enjoy: Lack of safe bike infrastructure; greater exposure to bad weather; less time with family


Over my week, I rode five different bus routes, light rail, biked, e-biked and walked across Edmonds, to my office in south Everett, and to downtown Seattle.


There is no better way to learn about our transportation systems and deficiencies than by going out and experiencing them. I hope other Edmonds residents will continue to think about how they travel around our region and consider participating in events like the Week Without Driving as we seek to improve mobility, access to essential destinations, and address our environmental crisis.


Lastly, special thanks to Edmonds City Council Student Representative Brook Roberts and Youth Commission Chair Owen Lee for also participating in the challenge, and the Disability Rights Washington teams for bringing this forward to our communities.


Read My Edmonds News letter


Roland Behee, Community Transit Director of Planning and Development


For me, this was an extension of my normal travel behavior, but with some added discipline. I typically rely on walking, biking, and riding the bus for at least half of my travel needs. What the week reinforced for me was that I can choose to not use my car but for those who don’t have access to a car, it’s a requirement.


I used my bike for things like running to the post office or shopping and added a bus ride to go to work during the rain and wind. Usually, I’m less likely to ride my bike in stormy weather. This week I just powered through, with the challenge providing that incentive.


Read Community Transit post

Christina Strand, Community Transit Administrative Assistant II


I took a lot of creative bus and bike trips, including some that were completely new to me. Especially challenging were grocery trips carrying a lot of food and a bus-bike trip to the dentist, where I had to store my bike in their mail room. A lack of secure bike parking was a challenge.


I spoke to quite a few people about the experience and three people said they want to start bike riding more for transportation!


Read Community Transit post




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