Consider how many locations you have been to in the last week that required the usage of a car. Then consider how long it would take without the use of a car. In many of these cases these locations are inaccessible without the
use of a car or take a considerable amount of time.
Highways, large parking lots, unprotected bike lanes — these are just some examples of how society has centered transportation around the car. In fact, owning a car has been seen as a form of freedom to access opportunities. And yet, this is far from the truth. Approximately a quarter of Washingtonians lack the ability to drive- whether from a physical limitation or lack of income - these individuals are isolated from economic and social opportunities.
This lack of opportunity caused by cars being the main mode of transportation can be found in our own local community, according to Snotrac's research. In Snohomish County, 92% of people who lack access to a driver's license or car do not commute. This has large economic consequences; 7.7x more transportation-independent individuals hold jobs than transportation-dependent individuals, and people in areas poorly served by transit are 7x more likely to miss work in the last 30 days due to transportation issues.
These issues can cause large economic disparities that stifle growth in our community. When considering opportunity and planning communities we should be taking these barriers to mobility in mind.
Often in Snotrac's work, improving mobility is seen primarily as expanding services such as paratransit or other schedule door-to-door services. While these services need to be greatly expanded on, mobility justice also requires an intersectional approach and infrastructure that centers many other aspects of transportation and land use. This includes building dense and abundant housing that is near employment opportunities, allowing for individuals to safely walk or roll to their job. Bikes lanes and sidewalks should be wide and protected so that people feel safe getting from point A to point B without the usage of a car.
These are just some examples, and we should consider many more ways in which we can make our communities more equitable and inclusive.
Week Without Driving offers an opportunity to hone in on these possibilities and reimagine how we think about a car-centric society. By allowing the public and leaders to get a glimpse of the barriers that people who cannot drive go through, we can begin to center the policymaking process on the experiences of those that face mobility challenges.
Organized by Disability Rights Washington, the Week Without Driving is in its second year and will be held September 19-25. Elected officials, agencies staff, and other community leaders are invited to participate, as well as the broader public.
The Week Without Driving is an opportunity for our leaders to literally walk, roll, and ride in the shoes of those who cannot drive due to ability, age, or access. From this experience, we expect our leaders will better understand the challenges and needs of 25% of our community.
— article written by Ed Engel, Snotrac's 2022-23 Mobility Justice Advocate, through AmeriCorps VISTA Program