While Santa Cruz County residents average 2 cars per household, the same as the US average*, not everyone in Santa Cruz County has either access to a vehicle, or can physically drive. More and better public transit options are essential to serve the needs of non-driving community members. Caroline Lamb, today’s Guest Post author, is a Santa Cruz resident, dedicated transit rider, and a member of the Elderly and Disabled Transportation Advisory Committee for the Regional Transportation Commission.
On Getting Around while Disabled
By Caroline Lamb
Officially, my disability is deafness, one that arrived suddenly, accompanied by severe vertigo. Since the deafness, though not complete, means that I can’t locate the source of sounds, and the vertigo kicks in whenever there’s any sudden motion near my face, I concluded that it was unsafe for me to drive.
And in Santa Cruz County, it turns out that my real disability is not driving. Since approximately World War II, all planning in Santa Cruz County is based on the assumption that everyone will drive everywhere. This despite the fact that at least 20% of the people in the county do not drive, and many more do not own cars.
Our county has a subcommittee of the RTC, the Elderly and Disabled Transportation Advisory Committee, with people very concerned to ensure insure that those of us with disabilities can get to our doctor’s appointments and to pharmacies. But the fact is, most people with disabilities are not ill. We spend very little time visiting doctors and pharmacies. What we want to do is get on with our lives.
So the first question, if there’s someplace I’d like to go, is: can I get there at all? Can I go to the county fair? I plugged my home and destination into the Metro’s trip planner. It told me just what buses to take, and proudly declared that I could do it in just 6 hours. I used to be able to attend morning services at Temple Beth El, but the buses I took are gone. I was interested in checking out the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom, but they met at the Quaker Meeting House, and no buses go anywhere near there.
But suppose I can get there—can I get home? This is a harder question, because so many buses quit at 5 or 6 pm, but most organizations meet at night. There used to be a #42 bus that left the downtown Metro at 10 pm. This bus was always fairly full, with more bicycles than could fit on the front racks, so we’d arrange ourselves to fit a couple more bikes inside. When the Metro held a meeting about discontinuing this bus, none of the regular riders who lived up the coast could possibly attend.
I’m not poor enough for Lift Line, and not rich enough to take Uber wherever I want to go. And I am just one of the many people not driving. In my age group, even those who drive are uncomfortable driving at night. What if we stopped assuming that every adult can and must drive?