(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 366: Inherent Transportation Expertise
This week we’re joined by Anna Zivarts from Disability Rights Washington and Paulo Nunes-Ueno from Front and Centered. They join us to talk about the Disability Mobility Initiative and story map, as well as the Mobility Bill of Rights. We also chat about why mobility experiments might make travel harder for disabled travelers and why a core part of anyone’s civil rights should be the ability to be safe on the road.
A full unedited transcript is below:
Jeff Wood (43s):
Anna Zivarts and Paulo Nunez Ueno. Welcome to the Talking Headways Podcast.
Anna Zivarts (1m 14s):
Thanks. Yeah. Glad to be here.
Jeff Wood (1m 16s):
Well, glad to have you all here before we get started. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and we’ll start with Anna and we’ll go with polo after that?
Anna Zivarts (1m 22s):
Sure. So I am Ana, I live in Seattle, Washington, and I’m a mom I’m low vision, and I’m the director of the disability mobility initiative, which is a program of disability rights, Washington,
Paulo Nunes Ueno (1m 35s):
And I’m Paolo Nunes Ueno. And I am the transportation and land use policy lead for front end centered in Washington state. And we’re a climate justice organization. And I also have the incredible luck to work in fun transit projects and mobility projects across the country as a
Jeff Wood (1m 57s):
Consultant. When did you all start working together?
Anna Zivarts (1m 60s):
Less spring? Really? We were both part of a coalition in Washington state working on transportation issues and the state level and came to recognize that we aligned pretty closely our organizations, the people we represent our interests were really aligned. And I think we started doing some trips together as well. Right. It was sort of really early when things were just kind of starting to open up a little bit in the pandemic and we wanted to get out and start to highlight some of the stories of folks who didn’t have transportation access in the state. I don’t drive so Paulo Paulo, and I followed in his car and drove to some far and rainy parts of the state to hold live stream, press events with the people whose stories we wanted to highlight.
Jeff Wood (2m 40s):
I bet you had good conversations in those long rides.
Anna Zivarts (2m 44s):
Yeah. Paula is a decent driver. So I really, I really disliked driving with people who aren’t her terrible drivers. It frees me up.
Jeff Wood (2m 52s):
I understand it. Can you tell us more about the disability mobility initiative?
Anna Zivarts (2m 56s):
Yeah, so it’s a program I got to launch little over a year ago at disability rights, Washington, we are focused on the transportation needs of non-drivers and we’re an organizing program. So our emphasis is really bringing together people who don’t have access to cars who can’t drive and making our voice part of the transportation planning and policy conversations here in Washington state. And increasingly I think more nationally and globally as well.
Jeff Wood (3m 23s):
Do you find that the work kind of spills it, like you said, spills over outside of Washington state fairly easily.
Anna Zivarts (3m 29s):
It starting to, and that’s, that part is really exciting. So far we’ve organized and collected the stories of around 200 folks from every, every legislative district in our state. And then put those stories together into a research paper. And we had the opportunity to present that the ASTO a board of directors meeting. So that was pretty exciting. Definitely, you know, an audience that wasn’t necessarily thinking about the transportation needs of non-drivers before that conversation very deeply. And I think we started to just crack open that door a little bit and then, you know, Paulo and I have done some press conversations like this podcast conversations and yeah, just starting to, I think there, there are other folks doing this work out there, but trying to make those connections and, you know, make sure that we can start to have different voices to be part of the transportation planning and policy conversations, both in our local cities, also in our local state legislatures and at the federal level.
Anna Zivarts (4m 22s):
And I think Paula is engaged a bit more at the federal level than I am. So you can speak to that.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (4m 27s):
Yeah. You know, there’s been a really great conversation that it was convened by the transit center and the association for adjust society, but it brought transit advocates together every week from across the country. And that has been really, really helpful in terms of helping us understand with these big proposals that are coming hopefully still, and also the bipartisan infrastructure bill that is a done deal, what that might mean in terms of the good and the bad related to the priorities that we have in Washington state. So that was really helpful. And we’re, we’re also finding that, Hey, you know, we have natural allies in California, in Oregon, potentially in, in Vancouver, BC as well, that are really interested in doing this work of linking our transportation investments to a justice approach, but also being very mindful that we understand that these things don’t come without impacts.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (5m 36s):
You know, it’s really been our experience that when we speak to legislators that, you know, we’re the ones that have having to remind them that, you know, when you build a highway that has a long tail of emissions that impact climate, but also have very, very serious health effects to the people in those communities who are primarily black and brown and who have been overburdened already by the impacts of our transportation system. So we think that there really are natural allies beyond Washington that we should be working with and that we can learn from,
Jeff Wood (6m 12s):
Well, I really felt that reading the piece with all of the, the story map and everything that goes along with that, I mean, those are stories that are focused on experiences in Washington state, but it seems like you could take all of the expertise that’s in those stories and you could translate that to anywhere in the United States. It doesn’t have to be very local. And so I felt like I was reading something that was not just focused on Washington, but it was something that you could translate to everywhere and it would be helpful everywhere. So it feels like a policy document that, you know, any trans agency could read, not just people reading from Washington state.
Anna Zivarts (6m 43s):
Definitely. I think, you know, I mean, we have like every state or most states, you know, we have super rural areas that are in our state. We have big cities. We have areas that have become increasingly expensive because of all the economic growth that’s been going on here. And that I think is something that’s been happening in a lot of different places in our country right now where housing costs have gone way up. And especially for disabled folks, folks on fixed income, low wage workers, right? The affordability of living in denser, better areas that are better served by transit areas that are more walkable rollable that just is out of reach. And so, you know, the system that the, the sort of really tenuous and mostly failing transportation system we had for non-drivers is actively becoming worse as housing prices go up.
Anna Zivarts (7m 30s):
And so many folks are getting displaced further and further out that I think is a concern that resonates in many communities throughout our country.
Jeff Wood (7m 38s):
It seems like the main focus you all have for the report and for, you know, access generally is that we are living in a system that’s designed specifically for drivers and for cars. Whereas, you know, it looks like 25% or so of people don’t have a car. And so if you have that large amount of people that don’t have a car and you design a system for the other 75%, what happens to that initial group? The twenty-five percent that
Anna Zivarts (8m 2s):
Exactly right. And, and we wish we had better numbers on that too. Right? I mean, that’s the best we could estimate from just the number of driver’s licenses in Washington state. We’re actually in the process right now of trying to get some additional funding for a research study through the legislature, to be able to help us understand, you know, who, who is out there, who doesn’t have a reliable access to a car, what are the demographics of this population? What are the needs? And I would love to see that, you know, as a census question, right, in the next census, it’s not something that’s explicitly asked about in the census or the American community survey. And we, yeah, it would be great. We just, we don’t know. And the other part of it is that, you know, if you don’t have access to transportation or mobility, you are often more isolated.
Anna Zivarts (8m 45s):
And so I think decision makers and, and, and, you know, elective leaders just aren’t aware that there is such a large percentage of the population that doesn’t have this access because it’s a very isolated and very marginalized part of the population. And it’s not people who have access to power or money
Paulo Nunes Ueno (9m 0s):
And it leaves out kids. You know, it, there’s this notion that, you know, the people that get to have a say in how our society is built, how the built environment is, are the people that can participate economically in society. But that’s just false. You know, that a nine year old girl has just as much right to be safe when she’s traveling to school or to the store, to her friends, as somebody who happened to have enough money to pay the $10,000 a year to own and maintain and insure and put gas in the car.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (9m 41s):
And that’s sort of where, you know, the, the work that front and center is doing, and the work that honor’s doing, a disability rights initiative at the mobility initiative is so, you know, relevant to real people is that we’re saying, Hey, there are basic rights that need to be respected in transportation. That it’s not simply a question of having paid the price of entry, of owning a car of being able to drive a car that regardless of who you are, you need to be safe on the road. You need to be able to access some basic things.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (10m 21s):
You need to be able to have reliable transit, for example. So one of the initiatives that we’re working on is to try to create a frequent, accessible transit standard to say that, Hey, you know, over time, we’ve made it so that it’s possible and reliable to drive between almost any two points on the map. And we should have a similar aspiration to make it possible for people to be able to get to the things that they need with transit. And so we’re similar to the wood is describing in terms of really understanding, well, who are the non-drivers we want to be able to say, well, what is the level of transit access in Washington state in terms of percentage of the population that can walk on an accessible sidewalk to transit that runs 15 minutes or better day or night.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (11m 17s):
And we know that that number is really, really, really, really low, but why should we accept that? You know, the analogy that we use is it’s really hard to go and rent an apartment that doesn’t have a toilet in doors, and that didn’t happen by magic. That was a series of decisions and commitments that were made over decades to make it so that indoor plumbing is something that we take for granted and safe sidewalks and decent transit should be that, you know, it should be that because it’s a pathway out of poverty, really strong one, but also because it’s just key to being able to participate in society for everybody.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (11m 58s):
So I’m really excited about this work, and I’m really excited about the partnership with Ana, because it it’s so much of the conversation. It’s like we have a real sort of disparity in the terms that we use in transportation. There is a kind of, and, and in the way that we fund our transportation, you know, people expect that the roads will be paved. The highways will be expanded when you get congestion, but you have to go up for a levy if you want to create better transit system. Why is that, you know, it’s doing, it’s the same thing. It’s just moving people. Why do we treat those so differently? And ultimately, I think our proposition is, is that we treat those so differently because the people for whom this would be such a huge benefit, haven’t had a voice in the conversation.
Jeff Wood (12m 47s):
I’ve often thought that was really strange too. When I was in Austin, the big thing was in 2000 was a light rail election. And I always thought it was strange that you could build toll roads and you could build roads to everywhere. And then you had to have a vote just to, just to raise money, to approve whether you’re going to build a light rail line, or it was, seemed really strange. And I’ve, I’ve always kind of operated off that premise that it’s, it seems really strange that we were not thinking about a total mobility. We’re just thinking about a gas taxes for cars and that’s it, especially in Washington state, you know, and then you have to fight for yourself and these other places, but let’s talk about the, the transportation access for everyone story map. I was really excited to kind of click through on the website, some of the stories before going into the paper, where did the idea for this come from and what is included?
Jeff Wood (13m 29s):
Anna Zivarts (13m 30s):
So my background before I started doing disability work was an organizing with labor. And so I always believe in bringing people together. And I did video work for unions for years and years. And I came to see that it wasn’t so much about the videos that we produced being shared or becoming viral on social media, the act of someone being public and sharing their story publicly actually transformed their participation and their confidence and allowed them to engage in a new way. And it really made them committed to the work in a way that was powerful. And so the idea for the story map came from that, right? That and asking people to share something about themselves that you know, is risky, right?
Anna Zivarts (14m 13s):
There’s so much shame around not driving in our country. People are embarrassed to admit it, especially if they’re, you know, perceived as able-bodied there’s, if you can’t drive, it makes it really difficult to get a job. We can make it difficult to have kids. I mean, there’s, you know, there, there’s a lot of reasons people, even if they can’t drive or can’t drive comfortably, continue to drive and, and, and don’t want to disclose that they can’t. So we wanted to have this be a place where people could share something about themselves that felt a little risky, felt a bit like, you know, coming out of the closet in some ways and recognize that there were many other people in the same situation and that together, you know, if we start to act as a collective, we can start to shift the conversation and insist that we should be part of the conversation as well.
Anna Zivarts (14m 57s):
So that’s sort of my philosophical background on organizing and why, why we’re doing this as organizing work. And one other point too, is that it’s a lot of times people want to collect stories from people and then use those stories in tokenizing ways. And, you know, there is always some element of that in, in the work we do, but like, we are actively trying to combat that tendency by encouraging people and, and involving people and making sure that, that this is actually about them having a seat at the table and being involved and engaging and creating the most accessible space we can to allow people who haven’t engaged before to engage. And so that’s how we shift power and not just use people as, you know, symbols,
Paulo Nunes Ueno (15m 41s):
That work is just so powerful and has been, you know, what Ana just described. I’ve seen that, you know, when folks who use a wheelchair or who have a visual impairment and can’t drive, then come and testify at our, you know, house or Senate transportation commissions, or, you know, on different committees and say, you try it, you, you try to navigate the streets without sidewalks. It, we built, it really has an, an impact in it changes the conversation, but also really strangely often those voices are the only quote unquote, real voices that join those conversations.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (16m 28s):
Everybody else is somehow a paid hack. That’s associated with a project that has a long tail of project development that has a constituency and created its own weather because a lot of money has been put into it already because it’s a big highway project or it’s something else. But when lady that Ana has, has worked with tells the story of taking three buses that take an hour and a half to try to get to Kmart, and she gets there, but there is 60 feet of missing sidewalks. So she can’t get to the crosswalk to actually get to the other side of the street to get the Kmart. It’s a much more impactful and a much more real picture of what’s actually not happening in our transportation systems.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (17m 16s):
Then the, you know, I mean, I I’m sure that everybody listening has probably been at one of these meetings where people say, I need such and such a place such and such a road to be built an extra lane miles to be added to this place because congestion and people expect that naturally, there’s this kind of, you know, head nodding and understanding, oh, that situation is terrible. It’s terrible. You should sort of feel kind of pain for those people that are trapped and congestion, but it’s an entirely different thing when somebody says, I actually can’t complete that trip because there’s 60 feet of missing sidewalks.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (17m 56s):
And that 60 feet of missing sidewalk is not a mega project for crystal. There’s nobody advocating for it.
Jeff Wood (18m 3s):
Yeah. That story was so powerful because of the small amount of distance that you had to go get most of the way. And then you couldn’t get the rest of the way because of the mud and getting stuck. And it’s just not just doesn’t seem fair, but that encompasses too. I mean, this kind of collection of expertise that you all put together, and I’ve seen a number of the articles that you all were quoted in for after you release the project, you know, talking about that specifically that, you know, these are folks who we should be valuing their expertise because they live it, they’re in it all the time. They’re trying to get to places and they’re learning what they can and can’t do. And we often take, you know, experts as people who have studied something for a long period of time, and they’ve just done their 10,000 hours.
Jeff Wood (18m 45s):
It’s just, they’re doing it as they live day by day. And so how, what’s the power of this expertise that you’ve collected the stories of folks and, and the coordination that, you know, putting them together in categories that that can actually inform change.
Anna Zivarts (18m 59s):
Yeah. I think, you know, it is this expertise, right? That that 10,000 hours thing is, is a really good way to talk about it. You know, people who can’t drive, we are out there using the system day in and day out, and it’s taking a long time to get where we need to go. And so we are thinking about it, like the amount of time I think about our transportation system, any time I need to go anywhere, especially out here in the west, but you know, is in this auto designed, whatever utopia for cars, you know, it’s immense. And the other thing I think about this lived experience expertise that we’ve really been able to tap into and people seem kind of surprised by is the passion that people have to change the system, because it is something that, you know, us as not divers, we are other thinking about, oh my gosh, if the only there was a light here to cross the street to my bus stop.
Anna Zivarts (19m 43s):
So I didn’t have to try to dash across six lanes of highway, if only the, it wasn’t a giant puddle at the base of this ramp that I have to roll through or step through every time like there is. And so when, when, when people have the opportunity to engage, they are more than willing and more than excited to show up and, and hope to be listened to. And we really have to start to, I think, you know, change the way our transportation departments and transit agencies think about hiring people and paying people with this kind of experience to bring them in and get that knowledge. And one thing we’ve sort of tapped into a little bit is just that so many of these job postings required driver’s licenses when they don’t need to. Right. It’s not like we’re saying that you, you know, if you’re a bus driver, yes, you need a CDL, but there’s a lot of, you know, planning, jobs, data, jobs, other types of jobs out there, there’s no good reason people should be requiring driver’s licenses and yet they are.
Anna Zivarts (20m 35s):
And then you’re just automatically excluding a whole bunch of us who could offer a lot of knowledge and expertise to improve the system.
Jeff Wood (20m 43s):
W what kind of jobs are they requiring licenses for? Why would they do that? If it’s not,
Paulo Nunes Ueno (20m 48s):
If you’re not delivering or driving or, or what’s the
Anna Zivarts (20m 51s):
Here hear various explanations? I mean, it tends to be an automatic thing on a lot of these HR checklists. And so when the job gets entered into the HR system is just automatically checked. So that’s sort of the most, you know, innocuous there’s other times where people will make really good arguments or whatever they think they’re really good arguments to me about why, why a, you know, a planning job or a fundraising job, or a, you know, QuickBooks job needs to have, you know, the person needs to have a driver’s license. Well, what if, you know, they needed to somehow get across the state to this other thing, and we know there’s no good transit, you know, and it’s true. There is no good transit, but there are ways around that. And especially if you’re a transit agency or an advocacy group that works to improve transit, I really think there’s, there’s an imperative to try harder and recognize that.
Anna Zivarts (21m 36s):
Sure. It might take that person a little longer to get somewhere, but that’s okay. And in getting there, they are going to be gaining a lot of knowledge and experience just using the system. So I think one other thing that Paulo hit on a little bit earlier, and I think is really important is that we are just talking about improving transit and walkability and rural ability in urban areas or in population centers. I think we a very consciously focused on undoing advocacy throughout the state and through our more rural to our farming areas. And I think, you know, part of that is, is really critical because of the gentrification, the, you know, the increased pricing housing in our more urban areas. But also just that, like, there’s no reason our more rural areas shouldn’t have at least, you know, hourly or a couple of times a day transit service.
Anna Zivarts (22m 25s):
And right now they just don’t. And there are so many folks, including so many seniors and folks in our, in our tribal areas, farm workers, right. Who don’t have access to cars and live in these more rural areas currently and could benefit immensely from having better transportation access. So I just think that that is something that I think is really relevant to the national conversation that we can’t just be talking about cities. We need to be dreaming bigger than that.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (22m 51s):
Yeah, absolutely. And what an engine of inequality, we’ve set up for ourselves where, you know, to fund transit, you need these basic requirements. You need to have a progressive general voting population that will vote to tax themselves, to pay for transit operations. And you need to have progressive politicians who are willing to put those measures on the ballot. Those things tend to coincide really heavily with pretty well to do areas right now in America. So the people that are just incredibly left out in this equation are poor people in communities of color who have the misfortune of living in areas that are conservative and led by Republican politicians, because they will never be able to get the transit that they need because they can’t get it on the ballot.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (23m 45s):
And even if they did, they probably can’t get those things approved. And so it really is. It’s creating this engine of inequality, where the urban wealthy areas have the ability to tax themselves to create better transit. And the ex-urban and rural areas are getting left behind. And you have this sort of really sick situation where walking biking and transit are becoming elite activities where, you know, reorganization is bringing wealthier people back to the traditional city cores that have a connected grid that spent the money to build the sidewalks back in the day.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (24m 25s):
And the suburbs that have this disconnected network with no sidewalks that are harder to serve with transit, frankly, and don’t have the tax base to provide this basic service, you know, going back to the indoor toilet example, you know, absolutely there are economies of scale, right? We have water treatment plants in places that are very urban and that where you have a massive folks that can fund that. And we figured out how to do septic tanks in places that are, that are less debts, but everybody has a toilet inside now, right? So we need to sort of figure out how we provide this basic element of living in society so that people can get to the things that they need, regardless of whether you’re in the big metropolitan area or you’re in a smaller city or a less dense place.
Jeff Wood (25m 20s):
You’d be surprised actually about how many places in the United States still don’t have toilets it’s required obviously. But there was, I think a guardian article recently talking about how there was a number of, of neighborhoods around the country that still don’t have indoor plumbing, and it’s a real issue. And obviously we have the lead pipe issue in the number of things, but I, I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m just saying like, we still have that problem too, to take care of in a number of places. But sometimes when I was looking at census data, I used to do a lot of mapping and in my, my work, and there were places in, in the place like Baltimore, the lower income areas that still didn’t have indoor pipes and plumbing, which was really surprising to me that that still existed, but it still exists. And so, like you’re saying, I mean that that’s a regulation and requirement, but we’re still fighting those demons of trying to get everybody on the same page.
Jeff Wood (26m 4s):
And I think that transportation is even further behind in that, in that aspect. And you’re completely right about that. I want to ask about the report specifically and how you combine topics and pulled from people’s experiences and, you know, created a set of groupings that, that could provide information for decision makers, people at agencies. How did you, you end up figuring out which topics that you wanted to talk about when you were putting those, those together for the report?
Anna Zivarts (26m 29s):
Yeah. I had a wonderful assistant can really kitchen she’s great. And she helped me. We, you know, read back through all the stories and then both of us sort of generated these lists of things that we were hearing and wanted to pull out as topics and then combine those. And it was an immense amount of work. None of it was done through any of the, like the word cloudy type type situations. We really tried to include almost every interview at that point into the, into the research paper and, and make sure that those voices were being heard. And, you know, there were a lot of areas of consensus and, and actually a surprising amount of overlap. I was a little afraid going in that we would hear, you know, such different things that because our state is, you know, very geographically diverse and we have, you know, people with disabilities have very, very different needs and yet there were really consistent themes throughout.
Anna Zivarts (27m 18s):
And I think over, you know, the big theme, the big takeaway was just the importance of sidewalks. And that I think is something that doesn’t get a lot of attention or hasn’t historically gotten as much attention as other issues in transportation because able-bodied people perhaps can sort of figure out work arounds, but if you are transit dependent and especially if you are disabled sidewalks, are that critical connection without them, you, you are much more isolated. You’re much more dependent on paratransit or rides from friends or service providers. And, and so they really are like a liberating technology and something we could be thinking about much more, much more deeply and should be investing in much more and should be maintaining it should be building and all of that.
Anna Zivarts (28m 1s):
So I think that that to me was the big takeaway from the work was just, wow, sidewalks are our Achilles heel right now. And our transportation system for many folks who need it the most.
Jeff Wood (28m 12s):
Yeah. That was interesting. In addition to that, there was a piece I remember reading of somebody who rolled off of the edge of a bus stop because there were low vision markings that were, had been placed in the wrong place. So there’s like this issue of building, building the infrastructure, like sidewalks and making sure that it’s there, but also building it. Right. It seemed like that was an issue as well as building it correctly, not just building it. Yeah,
Anna Zivarts (28m 34s):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean like the ADA, like there’s such a backlog of things that are legally required right. And have been for 30 years and we just haven’t taken it seriously. Like in our state, we don’t even know by each, each jurisdiction is supposed to come up with an ADA transition plan. And many of those have never been submitted to the state. We have no sense of what the total amount of improvements like the budget amount is just, we don’t, and we don’t really want to know. I think, and then there’s like beyond just like what is strictly required by the ADA? I think what would gets really difficult for many disabled folks is that you have a lot of urban planners who want to try out new and fun and experimental design ideas for bike lanes and transit stops.
Anna Zivarts (29m 15s):
And, you know, and each one of those interfaces then become something else, a new thing that someone has to figure out and if you’re blind or you’re using a service animal, that can be really, really challenging. And so that lack of standardization while it may allow for innovation actually is another barrier for folks.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (29m 35s):
And the pathways by which sidewalks get built is, is similar to, we were saying before, it’s just for some reason a totally different process. So here’s a sort of thing that we heard recently when Ana and I were doing a presentation at the Washington state transportation commission. There was a commissioner who also happens to be a city council member at a smaller city in Washington state who told us, he’s been trying to pave a section of town sidewalks to create sidewalks in the section of town for 11 years. And hasn’t been able to do it because the process of actually building a sidewalk is much harder than maybe building a highway, you know, that he needs to create a local improvement district.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (30m 24s):
He needs to go and deal with property rights issues. He needs to go and charge the individual homeowners. Can you imagine going to the homeowners and saying, Hey, you know, we’re going to, we’re going to have to access your property in order to build this sidewalk and imagine how many blocks of sidewalk you don’t build, because that’s the way that, that we’ve decided to provide like a, say this critical piece of the transportation network. We’re piecemealing it in this incredibly inefficient way. And so, you know, a lot of the way that we talk about this is to say that we have all of the things that we need in order to make a dramatic difference in all of these things, but we need the commitment.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (31m 14s):
You know, we seem to tolerate really incredibly poor levels of infrastructure that are right next to an excellent, very high quality road. And the only reason why we tolerate those is because there are some people in society that we say matter. And then there are some people that we say matter a lot less. And so, you know, our approach at front and center is to take a very, you know, it’s in the name is to say, you know, people of color that have been marginalized in society systematically need to be front and center and making decisions that affect our lives going forward. And that is, you know, a road like, you know, like Paul , who’s one of our key partners at front and centered lives in Yakima and has a disability.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (32m 5s):
You works with the association of Pacific Islander coalition in Yakima. And he often tells the story of what waiting for the bus is like for him. And literally what it means is it’s standing in somebody’s yard, cause there’s no sidewalk or standing on the road. And it’s a road that has, you know, 40 mile an hour traffic posted speed limit 40 mile an hour traffic, but the actual traffic is much higher. And when you look at that picture, you see this incredible disparities in the built environment right there, because the pictures that I been there in person yet, I really want to go out there and walk those streets with them. But that street looks like a piece of glass.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (32m 47s):
It’s so smooth to the pictures that he shows us, right? I mean, it’s, they they’ve taken good care of that road. And yet there’s no sidewalk. And when the snowplow comes, the snow plows, shoves the snow onto this person’s yard, and then he’s waiting for the bus on the street, in front of amount of snow. And there’s no reason except for we’ve said, Hey, you know, Paul, you’re a person of color who lives in Yakima, who has a disability. You matter less than the people who can drive. And so, you know, I think, you know, it’s so important about the work that Ana is doing, the work that we’re doing in front and center, it is to attack that at its root is to, you know, so we created a transportation bill of rights.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (33m 36s):
And to say, there, there is, you know, very first among that people have the right not to be killed their main, when they’re going about their daily business. And people have the right to a clean place to live with clean air and clean water. That’s not being polluted by other people getting by your house to do their transportation stuff. And it’s a radically different conversation than the conversation that’s usually at place in terms of, well, how are we going to allocate funds for this or for that? Or, you know, we can’t do that because the 18th amendment says the gas tax can only be used for this purpose or that purpose.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (34m 17s):
And we think that, you know, there are lots and lots of people who want to contribute to this and say, particularly in light of the nexus between transportation and climate and the climate injustice that that’s perpetrating, that’s making it more difficult for communities of color, for people with disability to be able to thrive. And so, you know, I invite all the folks that are listening to look at the white paper to also look at the transportation bill of rights that we have up on our site at front and center and see how you can add to that conversation or join that conversation somehow and expand it because it’s an exciting moment.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (35m 1s):
We feel like we’re in conversations with the right leaders in Washington, that they are hearing this message in a different way.
Jeff Wood (35m 10s):
I wanted to ask you is, you know, when you share the bill of rights with people, what, what kind of responses do you get? What do people, you know, say, are, are they dismissive dismissive of it or are they accepting of it? Is it something that’s easy to get across? Or is it harder? I mean, it’s interesting to think about it.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (35m 25s):
Yeah. It’s really interesting. And I could see it in the zoom that Ana is laughing because we’ve had this experience so often where we say these things and people say, there’s nothing I disagree with here. You’re totally right. But we can’t do any of those things. Right. And that, that’s what we heard last year from, you know, elected officials and, you know, from folks in our, in our coalitions as well. And then this year, what we’re seeing is the conversation is changing tone quite a bit. And the things that were impossible last year are being more mainstream asks.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (36m 5s):
And so I think it is the right approach to take. And it’s, it’s a really hopeful one. Ultimately, you know, it’s saying that, you know, this, this isn’t just a conversation for experts. It isn’t just a conversation about boring infrastructure. It’s a core part of your civil rights is to be able to be safe on the roads where you need to travel, regardless of whether you’re nine or whether you’re 99, whether you can see or you can’t see,
Jeff Wood (36m 38s):
What was it that changed people’s perception? Was that the pandemic, was it some of the weather related things that happened last year? I mean, you had some really high temperatures you had, you’ve had snow recently, you know, lots of really impactful climate related things in addition to a pandemic, were those the kind of the catalysts or was it something else? Was it just you all doing really good work?
Anna Zivarts (36m 58s):
I think honestly it’s, I mean the, the climate stuff, because everyone, you know, we’re in a very democratic part of a democratic state. And so, you know, the climate conversation among Democrats here is not people get that. It’s a crisis at least, you know? And so I think what, what has shifted I think is, is actually talking about the unmet need and highlighting the needs of our communities, the frontline communities, and non-drivers in particular. And I think those are the, those ones who just haven’t been a major part of transportation conversations in particular, like there’s lots of good community organizing going on in lots of spaces, but in this, in the transportation statewide transportation space, people just LA like, they literally just hear from lobbyists and they don’t hear from directly impacted communities who want something different.
Anna Zivarts (37m 45s):
Like actually want more funding for transit actually want sidewalks. Like instead they hear about, oh, you know, we need this as the trucking association needs, whatever. And so I think that that shifted a bit. We also did this week without driving challenge. It was our first attempt of it. I think it was great. I think that people who, people who agreed to do it were probably people who are already sympathetic, but even for them, I think in many of them do so occasionally ride transit or occasionally ride a bike, or, you know, or try to do that, you know, frequently even, but they still all have cars and still have the option of bailing when the weather is bad or when the kid needs to go somewhere late at night or, you know, when they need to carry a bunch of groceries and to think about what it would be like to not have that option for just a week.
Anna Zivarts (38m 30s):
I think for a lot of them was a bit revolutionary and that they recognize that, oh, wow, this really, it might work some of the time, but it doesn’t work all the time. Or it only works for these things and not for these other things. And so I think that has begun to shift the conversation a little bit, and that is definitely something that I think we want to try to grow and expand in future years and, and try to get more participation across our state and perhaps in other states as well. The climate piece is really interesting cause I, I, you know, we work, we work in the context of these climate conversations in Washington state because we have so much, hydro-power transportation is our largest greenhouse gas contributor. And so we have to be tackling transportation, but how we do that and whose needs get prioritized in how we change in that just transition or not.
Anna Zivarts (39m 17s):
So just transition I think is, is really key. And so that’s where, you know, it’s, it’s become, you know, a point of conversation about, you know, are we focusing on electrification or are we talking about building sidewalks? I mean, yes, we should be doing both, but you know, funding is limited. Are we building transit whose needs in where all this funding is getting steered are getting prioritized. And that is something that I think we’re really focused on right now is making sure that in these conversations, we are really clear that that non-drivers and front line communities, we are, we are the environmental leaders, we are the climate leaders. And by doing the things that make it easier and safer and less dangerous, and you know, that, that we need to thrive in our communities by doing those things first, that’s actually how we’re going to get to reach our climate goals most easily.
Anna Zivarts (40m 7s):
And in a way that, that is both equitable and ultimately serves all of us the most.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (40m 13s):
Yeah, absolutely. You know, we did a bunch of listening sessions with communities all across the state last year and said, well, you know, what are your priorities for transportation? And over and over again, people said they want better transit, cleaner air, safer streets. And yet when you match that up with the way in which the legislature was proposing to spend $16 billion of money, those priorities, weren’t not sort of rising to the top. You know, it, it really, really was an entirely different set of needs that were being met.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (40m 55s):
And I think that the, what, what Ana just said about, Hey, you know, there is a really clear nexus here between justice and climate action that a Tesla in every driveway, not only is it not feasible, it actually is not in line with the justice outcomes that we should all be looking for. Right. Imagine going to the family whose child was killed by a car and say, well, at least that was an electric car, right? That’s, that’s absurd. We have so many disparities that will not be solved by electrification and ignoring.
Paulo Nunes Ueno (41m 35s):
Those is not gonna do us any good, you know, we need to electrify, but we need to do it equitably and it’s not, and it’s not going to solve every single problem.
Jeff Wood (41m 46s):
Yeah. I agree. It’s tough to have those conversations with people who are the true believers, right? It’s, it’s, it’s frustrating sometimes because I do agree we need electrification, but at the same time, like, you know, the rules of the road are, as it pertains to pedestrians and active transportation, they’re not quite correct yet. So it’s,
Paulo Nunes Ueno (42m 4s):
Or tell those people in Virginia that were, you know, stuck in their cars for, for 48 hours or 24 hours or whatever, and saying, aren’t you glad you are an electric car that doesn’t make any sense. You know, it’s like, I think, you know, Derek Walker talks about elite projection and that seems to be the thing that we’re struggling against. And, and that’s the beauty of the week without a car is to say, well, you know, let’s put your, put down your elite projection for a bit and experience the world as it is for so many different people. And it’s powerful,
Jeff Wood (42m 43s):
Really good to read some of those media clips about some of the elected officials that, you know, they’ve used transit before and they use it for their lives, but then they get their kind of world up-ended by having to do it for a week. I find that in other places, I mean, yours seemed very successful from that standpoint. I find another places, the only people, I guess, there was a challenge for one day here in, in San Francisco. And it didn’t seem to have the same effect on people’s minds as maybe the one that you all did. So kudos for that to change minds. Yeah,
Anna Zivarts (43m 12s):
No, yeah. We’ll see. I mean, we changed someone’s we opened some eyes. I think we got a little bit of, you know, awareness, but at the end of the day, these are going to be hard political choices that our elected leaders are going to have to make. And the only way they’re going to make them as the, you know, they have to, and that’s why we have to organize, right. It’s not just awareness. That’s going to change their mind. It’s fear of political consequences. And so that is, that is why the organizing, I think, is so critical. We can’t just rely on people feeling, you know, feeling compassionate. That’s not enough.
Jeff Wood (43m 43s):
Well, so if folks want to look for and find the story map or the bill of rights, where can they find them? Sure.
Anna Zivarts (43m 48s):
So you can follow the disability mobility initiative on Twitter. We are, we are just on Twitter these days at this mobility. And then we also have a website. You can look at us at disability rights, washington.org,
Paulo Nunes Ueno (44m 2s):
And it’s just front and centered.org. And you can see the transportation bill of rights there and all of the work that we’ve done in partnership with disability rights, Washington, to really, you know, change the conversation that we’re having in terms of transportation systems.
Jeff Wood (44m 20s):
And I want to make sure people go to the story map and to read the bill of rights, because, you know, there’s a lot of stories in there where we didn’t talk. We talked about a couple of stories and a couple of the things that were featured in the report, but there are so many in there and it kind of opens your eyes to seeing the world from a different perspective than maybe you did if you were able-bodied. So I definitely recommend people go and check it out and maybe read a couple of stories. It’s really easy to flick through the stories. There’s a little, you know, there’s a little thing you just clicked through. It’s almost like surfing Instagram, really, to be honest, it’s, it’s really that simple. So I hope that folks can go and check it out because it’s really powerful. And I hope that people not just in Washington, obviously check it out because I think I mentioned earlier on it, I feel like this is very relevant to people around the country, in the world, not just in Washington state.
Jeff Wood (45m 3s):
So I appreciate that as well.
Anna Zivarts (45m 5s):
Awesome. Yeah. And thank you. And you can also follow, I think Paula and I are both on Twitter as ourselves as well, and can sometimes be a little spicier than our institutions, so you can follow us on Twitter individually. I’m at and Paulo. Your Twitter handle is PLU moves.
Jeff Wood (45m 25s):
Awesome. Well, NN Paulo, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate your time.
Anna Zivarts (45m 32s):
Thank you. Yeah. Great conversation. Thanks for having us. It was awesome. A