(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 488: When Driving is Not an Option

June 19, 2024

This week on Talking Headways I’m joined by SPUR’s Laura Tolkoff to interview Anna Zivarts about her new book: When Driving Is Not an Option: Steering Away from Car Dependency.  We chat about non-drivers, car seats, and the week without driving.

You can listen to this episode at Streetblog USA or find it in our hosting archive.

Below is a full unedited AI generated transcript of the full episode:

Laura Tolkoff (1m 38s):
Hi everybody. Welcome. Thank you all for joining us this evening. My name is Laura Tolkoff. I’m the transportation policy director here at SPUR. Thank you so much for joining us today at the Urban Center. And thank you to those of you who are also SPUR members, which really helps enable us to put on programs like this and to do our advocacy and research. And without our members, we really would not be able to do programs like these. So thank you for your support. And if you’re not a member, I do encourage you to support Spurs ongoing work by joining as a member. So today we’re gonna be discussing the book When Driving is Not An Option. This book shines a light on the reality for non-drivers and explains how improving our transportation system with non-drivers in mind will create a better quality of life for everyone.

Laura Tolkoff (2m 29s):
During today’s event, we’re joined by Anna Zivarts, who is the author of this fantastic book, If You, haven’t read it, please pick it up. And Anna will explain that When the needs of involuntary non-drivers are viewed as essential to how we design our transportation systems and our communities, not only will we be able to more easily get where we need to go, but the changes will lead to healthier climate friendly communities for everyone. Again, joining us for this conversation are Anna s The, author of this book and Jeff Wood from The Overhead Wire. I’ll introduce Anna and then Jeff, before we join in for the dialogue, Anna is a low vision parent non-driver and author of When Driving is Not An Option Steering Away from Car Dependency by Island Press.

Laura Tolkoff (3m 19s):
Anna created the Week without Driving Challenge, which we’ll hear more about later and is passionate about bringing the voices of non-drivers to the planning and policymaking tables. Anna sits on the boards of the League of American Bicyclists, the Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium and the Washington State Transportation Innovation Council. She also serves as a member of the Transportation Research Boards Committee on Public Health and Transportation and the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center Coordinating Committee. We’re so glad you came all this way. To Join us today.

Anna Zivarts (3m 55s):
Thank you. It’s lovely to be here. Thank you for hosting me.

Laura Tolkoff (3m 60s):
Yes, well, well deserved and Jeff Wood. Many of you know Jeff Wood. He is the host of the Talking Headways podcast at Streets Blog USA. And he also puts together The Overhead Wire newsletter, which is an immense service to people like me who read it really diligently to keep up with everything that’s happening with cities. And I encourage you to subscribe to the newsletter If You don’t already. So without further ado, we’re gonna get this conversation started. Thanks again for being here. Our first questions are really digging into a little bit more about you and how that informed your writing process. So could you tell us a little bit about yourself and perhaps a bit about your condition Nystagmus?

Laura Tolkoff (4m 42s):
Did I get you did, yes. How your experience as a low vision driver influenced the book.

Anna Zivarts (4m 49s):
Definitely. So I grew up in Washington State. I was born in Olympia, Washington, which is a small town, also our state capital. And I was born with this condition called nystagmus that makes my eyes wiggle all the time, a little bit, little shakes. That means that my visual acuity isn’t as great. I don’t see distances very well, you know, I can’t see faces across the room and I definitely don’t see well enough to drive. And that was a struggle for me growing up in the town where I did, because as I became a teenager, all my friends got their driver’s licenses. I lived out on a road in the woods. There wasn’t any sidewalks, there wasn’t transit nearby. And I felt very stuck. And I hated asking my parents for rides. Like most teenagers, a friend offered to teach me how to drive.

Anna Zivarts (5m 32s):
We didn’t really check with anyone. I drove her mom’s truck up a tree in a parking lot. And that really drove home for me that it wasn’t safe for me to drive and that I needed to figure out how I was gonna have a life and be able to live somewhere and get where I needed to go independently. And that’s when I, I left Washington State. I ended up in New York City ’cause I had heard that the subway there around 24 hours a day. And that was really important to me when I was at that age that I could get home at two or 3:00 AM on the train and lived there until the birth of my son. And he also was born with this condition nystagmus. And that I think it caused me to have a real reckoning about the sort of the, the way I, I wasn’t telling people about my vision condition ’cause I didn’t have to living in New York, I could just sort of pretend that I, a lot of people didn’t drive license and that was normal.

Anna Zivarts (6m 17s):
And it was never a question, for example, on job applications. You didn’t need to have a driver’s license, which is the way in so much of the rest of this country. And so he was born and I started to recognize that I needed to own this part of myself a little more if I wanted him to not feel shame about his disability and about being different in the world. And that’s how I ended up working for the Disability Rights Movement back in Washington State and started doing transportation work and, and land use work and telling the stories of other folks that I met along the way who couldn’t drive, couldn’t afford to drive. And there’s actually a lot more of us than I think I realized growing up. And that’s where the book came from.

Jeff Wood (6m 54s):
How do you get around now?

Anna Zivarts (6m 56s):
So I live in Seattle now and Seattle, you know, Seattle is kind of a suburban city, but we have a good transit network. King County Metro really does a good job with bus service. We do have one light rail line. And so I, I take the bus a lot and then I, I can bike, which actually is, is really awesome. I think a lot of parents would be scared to let a low vision kid bike, but my mom encouraged me to do that. And so I, I do bike. I don’t bike super fast ’cause it’s not super safe for me to go really fast. I tend to run into things I don’t see like rocks or potholes very well. But I, I can bike. So I bike around and I take the bus.

Jeff Wood (7m 32s):
So what was it that made you think like, oh I have to write this book. This is something that needs to be out there in the world?

Anna Zivarts (7m 38s):
I wanted to do it first. Like for my younger self, I wish I had known that there were lots of other people who couldn’t drive and couldn’t afford to drive. Even in my own state where I felt that everyone I knew drove everywhere. That there are many people with disabilities who can’t drive. There are also folks who are aging out at driving and then there are young folks and there are folks who can’t afford to drive. And altogether there’s a lot of us in that. I wish that younger version of myself and all the young people out there growing up who don’t have access to cars and driving can see that it is possible to live and live a wonderful full life and not drive. I mean, it could be even easier if we made our communities work better for not drivers.

Laura Tolkoff (8m 16s):
I really appreciate that and the insight that, you know, having good transit and good options for mobility allow you to just be, instead of having to explain, which I think is an important thing. That’s so great about cities and cities with great transit in particular. So you started to get into this a little bit that a third of Americans cannot drive. Can you share a little bit more about who non-drivers are, what you eloquently describe in the book, and what do you really mean when you use the term non-drivers? Yeah,

Anna Zivarts (8m 47s):
So I started thinking about this when I came back to Washington State and took a job in the video production team at Disability Rights Washington. And I started to hear so many stories of other people who couldn’t drive. And that was exciting for me. And so then I started to dig into, gosh, there’s actually a lot more non-drivers than I had thought. And I had previously worked in the labor movement and so knew that there were many people who couldn’t afford to drive. And I wanted to know sort of all together how many people were out there. And I wasn’t really finding good data. There’s data on the number of people with driver’s licenses in our country and that’s about a third of people in the US do not have driver’s licenses. But you know, that’s, it’s not really as simple as that. There are people without driver’s licenses who do drive and there are people who have a driver’s license and can’t drive.

Anna Zivarts (9m 29s):
And so I knew that that wasn’t really the number. And so I started pushing for research on how many non-drivers, we got a study funded in Washington state that got conducted by tool design to look at the percentage of non-drivers. And that study found that about 30% of our state are non-drivers. Wisconsin, the state of Wisconsin had similar research there. Their state DOT collects vehicle registrations and a driver’s license data and sort of the same database. And so they were able to pull that number pretty easily and they found that 31% of their population are non-drivers. And so based on that and based on what we can sort of see in other, you know, cities that have this data, it really is around a third of the population, can’t drive, can’t afford to drive, is too young to drive, is aging out of driving.

Anna Zivarts (10m 13s):
And that’s, that’s a lot of people. And I think there’s not a recognition that there are that many people who are so poorly served by a system built around driving everywhere around car dependency.

Jeff Wood (10m 24s):
And a lot of people don’t believe it, right?

Anna Zivarts (10m 26s):
No, yeah, I mean I think it, it scares people when they hear that number. When I was talking to the folks in Wisconsin who pushed for this research to happen there, they said that when the DOT realized that it was 31% of their state population were non-drivers, the folks of the DOT were like, oh my gosh, like we’re designing these systems and these roads and they’re not working for people and we’re engineers and we’re like, it is our job to make systems work for people and we’re failing at this because we just didn’t recognize that there are so many people who aren’t served by driving.

Jeff Wood (10m 57s):
Also in the book, you’ve collected a lot of stories from folks, a lot of really good anecdotes and also people’s experiences trying to get to where they’re trying to go. How much did your past kind of help you gather those stories?

Anna Zivarts (11m 10s):
Yeah, you know, so I came up doing communication work that was sort of my work, you know, doing video. And I spent some time working at the ACL U, the National A CLU in New York working there on a team with the L-G-B-T-Q in HIV AIDS project. And there, some of the folks that I worked with, some of the attorneys thought that, you know, the work, the legal work they did was really important, but what they really needed to do was narrative change work and changing the hearts and minds of people so that the things that they were pushing for in court, you know, had broader public support as well. And so they helped me sort of think strategically and, and start to realize how important it was to find the right people to be your spokespeople and have those stories really out there in the public and help change the narrative about what people needed to be full members of the community.

Anna Zivarts (11m 55s):
And so I sort of took that lesson and brought it to the disability rights work I did. And I think, you know, it’s, it’s really when you find someone who is willing to put themselves out publicly, which is a big ask too, and who is willing to take that risk, you really can start to change the narratives we tell about who matters. And I, that that’s sort of where it came from.

Laura Tolkoff (12m 13s):
I appreciate that and I would love If You can talk a little bit about some of those experiences of non-drivers and involuntary non-drivers. You do such a beautiful job sharing those stories and really connecting people to that experience. Can you talk a little bit more about some of the unacceptable risks we make people take in our current system?

Anna Zivarts (12m 34s):
Hmm. Oh my gosh, so many. I mean, I think about, you know, just the risks that you take when you see a bus coming and you know, that bus comes once every say half an hour or 45 minutes and then the light isn’t in your favor and you have to choose, are you gonna, you know, jaywalk across the street and sort of dash in between cars to catch that bus knowing that If You don’t, you’re gonna be sitting there, you know, for a long time, perhaps in the rain, perhaps with a whiny kid, perhaps you have to go to the bathroom, you know, perhaps you’re gonna be late to something really important. And I think that’s, you know, one of the risks that I take a lot and I think a lot of people who rely on transit to get around, it’s something that we weigh often.

Anna Zivarts (13m 17s):
And I did it just the other day with my kid. I was taking him to a class after school and the light rail train was coming and we were at this light and the light was, you know, not gonna change before the train was gonna leave. And it’s a, you know, busy four lane highway and I said, let’s go. And we went and we made it. But you know, sometimes people don’t make it and there’s not a lot of, I think compassion when that happens because, you know, they broke the law. They jaywalked there’s

Jeff Wood (13m 41s):
A lot of people that just don’t understand that, especially folks who have a lot of power and they don’t understand that non-drivers actually exist. But getting them to understand that’s kind of a helpful step. You tell a really interesting story in the book about gonna aashto like the, the board of governors. I’m curious what that experience was like and actually getting these kind of grand puba state DOT folks to kind of engage with what you were saying.

Anna Zivarts (14m 4s):
Yeah, I mean I, I was pretty nervous about that. I was invited by our Secretary of Transportation in Washington State, Roger Millar, who I think, you know, really does want to see a future where driving is less central to what our state DOT does. And so he invited me and I said yes and I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. And I also, you know, I’m someone who doesn’t like being in front of crowds and people like, I think for a lot of disabled kids in particular, there’s a lot of shame and like, you know, internalized that stuff. And so, you know, both talking about something that felt challenging to the room that I was gonna be in and then also talking in front of people. It was a little terrifying. But I went in there and I was actually like, I was shocked that I didn’t get booed off the stage because I’m asking, I mean, AASHTO was known for building highways and being sort of, you know, the big tool, the highway building industry.

Anna Zivarts (14m 53s):
But I think people are ready again. It’s sort of like what, what the Wisconsin DOT folks expressed, like there’s a desire to serve people’s needs and they’re just not aware that so many people aren’t being served by cars and that there are so many non-drivers out there or people who don’t want to drive too. Right? I think that’s part of this work we’re doing is like centering the, the folks who have the least choices already but also recognizing that there’s folks who maybe could afford a car, can drive, but would like to live in a world where that’s not required and they could get around and do and be involved in community and, and do that in other ways.

Jeff Wood (15m 26s):
I was recently, well my wife and, and and my 2-year-old and I went to China and one of the hard parts about going there is going to somewhere without a car seat. And so I’m wondering what your experiences are with car seats and what that means for transporting yourself around with a kid. Yeah,

Anna Zivarts (15m 43s):
I have a kid and my kid has always been small for his age. Finally now he’s seven and he is like, doesn’t need a car seat and it is so much better. But for the first, you know, six, six to seven years of his life he’s needed a car seat and car seats are really heavy. I don’t know If You don’t have kids. You’re probably not picked one up ’cause why would do, they’re pretty gross. There’s a lot of stuff that gets shoved down in there, but there’s like 30 to 40 pounds and so it’s not something that you’re gonna want to carry around with you for any distance. And yeah, I think when I first was traveling with him when he was a baby, we went to, gosh, it was to Texas to Dallas for work. ’cause I was used to New York where all the taxis and the like car service in my neighborhood R sibo, like they had car seats in the back and so you needed a car seat, you just pulled it out of the trunk and like put it in.

Anna Zivarts (16m 28s):
And I got to Texas and there were no car seats in the Lyfts or the Ubers and I was like, oh my gosh, what do I do? And I just kept them strapped to my chest and you know, took the ride. But I think we’re, we don’t think about the needs of parents and caregivers and folks hauling groceries and folks, you know, like there’s so many ways that we need to get around with different stuff that’s not like fast and yeah. That our transportation systems aren’t thinking about that. And especially my, my pet peeve right now is, is micro transit and like the via to transit folks that, that’s the company that exists in Seattle where they’re replacing fixed route transit buses with, you know, on-demand shuttles. And those on-demand shuttles are great perhaps, I don’t know, they’re, they’re not great in a lot of ways, but you know, there, there’s no way If, You are a parent.

Anna Zivarts (17m 14s):
You can use ’em because you’re expected to have a car seat and you can’t then get off the shuttle and carry a car seat onto the light rail or carry a car seat around while you run errands. So just not, you know, systems that are being designed by folks who aren’t really thinking about everyone who needs to use them.

Jeff Wood (17m 30s):
And that’s, that’s like some of the basics, but then there’s other basics that are needed like sidewalks and you know, bus stop signage, curb cuts, those types of things. It feels like those are missing in a lot of places as well.

Anna Zivarts (17m 42s):
Yes. And you know, a lot of that, these things all cost money, right? Like everything costs money and then when it comes down to it, it’s like what are we funding? And you think about how many billions we spend on road widenings highway capacity, you know, expansions even in blue states, right? Like California and Washington State where we have progressive dots that are perhaps, you know, talk in the talk and talking about complete streets and talking about, you know, multimodal this and prioritizing all modes is my new favorite. But, but then, you know, when you look at the budgets that go to some of the road capacity building projects versus what we’re spending on trying to even just have a basic sidewalk network in so many places and a functional sidewalk network accessible sidewalk network, there’s, there’s really no comparison.

Laura Tolkoff (18m 26s):
Yeah. The money really speaks for itself. I also wanna comment on the transportation and caregiving because there’s the ways in which our transportation is not set up for children or caregivers, but also not set up for parents who want to be a parent but don’t wanna be a chauffeur all the time. That I think is really important that there’s a part of the system that really ignores kind of the, the selfhood of parents in a lot of ways and adults who wanna separate those two tasks. So appreciate that a lot. Yeah. So let’s talk about some of the structural challenges in transportation planning. I think you’re starting to move into this.

Laura Tolkoff (19m 7s):
Why do you think that non-drivers and the challenges that they face are so often ignored?

Anna Zivarts (19m 14s):
I mean, you think about who are non-drivers, right? It’s folks who are disabled, it’s folks who are children, it’s folks who are elders and aging out of driving and maybe house bound. It’s folks who are more likely to be from black and brown and indigenous communities and immigrant communities, right? And it’s poor folks who can’t afford to drive. And so like those are folks who are typically excluded from political processes, from decision making, from the rooms where, you know, the people decide what priorities matter. You know, we’re not often in those spaces. And so as a result, I think, you know, both that our needs aren’t intentionally met, but also there’s just not an awareness of what those needs are. There’s an assumption that, well, oh, you have a job then you must have a car, you must have a driver’s license.

Anna Zivarts (19m 54s):
And that’s, that’s just not true.

Laura Tolkoff (19m 56s):
Towards the end of the book, you also talk a little bit about how large investments in auto oriented infrastructure in the middle of the past century were really explicitly part of this project of racial segregation. I’m gonna pull a quote if that’s okay. Yep. So you wrote that quote, large investments in car infrastructure were funded so that white people could remain segregated. Automobility was driven by and continues to enable a refusal to share space end quote. When I read that, it really made me think about how cars are the moving counterpart to the single family home. Could you talk a little bit more about the history that you were referencing and how that affects where we’re today and the structural marginalization that you’re talking about?

Anna Zivarts (20m 41s):
Yeah, I mean you think about how much our country invests in public transit and why it does. And I think, I think a lot of this was laid bare during the pandemic when, you know, folks who had the choice to drive just stopped using transit or the choice to stay home and remained on transit were folks who needed transit. And that really shows, you know, who transit serves. And also I think why too often transit is so underfunded and I think when there was the option for people to opt out of cities and move to suburbia and you know, be in single family homes, people chose to do that, white people chose to do that. And it was a way to avoid being integrated, sharing buses, right?

Anna Zivarts (21m 21s):
Sharing schools. I just read a terrific book, disillusioned, highly recommended about school segregation and suburbia. And so I think, you know, that this ability to opt out of sharing public space really has, you know, been enabled by cars. And when we talk about reinvesting in public transit and reinvesting in buses, there’s a pushback about that and it really is racialized, but people are uncomfortable when you talk about how racialized it’s when you’re like, okay, well why don’t you like the bus? Why, why is there such a bus stigma in so much of our country? And I think a lot of that is a racial stigma

Jeff Wood (21m 54s):
As with you just talk about single family homes as most transportation discussions. It seems like it also becomes like a housing discussion in the book you share that people who wanna stay near a community they trust are sometimes forced to choose to be closer to better transportation. In many cases they can’t because accessible places are often super expensive. And so I wonder If You could kind of touch on that a little bit because I feel like that’s kind of one of the touchstones of the book as well.

Anna Zivarts (22m 17s):
Yeah, I mean in, in Washington state, and I think in so much of this country, which not everywhere, right? I did a talk in Michigan and their housing prices are not, this isn’t happening, but in much of our country, you know, cities have become luxury items, right? People want to live in that urban environment. And what has resulted is then that people who need transit, who need a connected sidewalk network and can’t afford the new rents or the new housing prices get priced out. And so I’ve talked to so many folks in Washington State who would love to be able to live where I live in Seattle, but instead they’re living back out in a rural area with their parents because of the cost of housing, right? And they can’t drive. And so then they’re totally isolated. They can’t get a job because they can’t get that transportation.

Anna Zivarts (22m 59s):
We have to figure out how to build more affordable housing near where people work near, where people wanna live and have that density so that we can have scalable transit so that we can have walkable communities.

Jeff Wood (23m 10s):
And that point that Laura brought up about care infrastructure is huge too, because you wanna be where the folks you know around you are, can care for you or you can care for them. And so I feel like that’s an important part of it too.

Anna Zivarts (23m 21s):
It’s, yeah, and I think, I mean there’s a, there’s a sort of a more complex conversation too about, okay, for folks who want to live in more rural areas, like, ’cause that’s where your community is, then how do we make sure that it’s possible to still be able to get around and get around without just relying on favors from friends and family? Because that can be a dangerous situation. And you know, people need the ability to live and leave when they need to at times. And so I think that, you know, know it, it becomes more expensive if it becomes like, we’re not talking about 15 minute headways, but I still think it’s possible for us to talk about how do we have rural transit and places to walk and roll safely.

Jeff Wood (23m 57s):
Asking for a ride is hard too.

Anna Zivarts (23m 58s):
Yeah. There’s an emotional burden to that. Which I, I think there’s, there’s more questions on that too, but I’ll, I’ll go there now. I mean, I think that people don’t realize, I think who have the option of grabbing their keys and going how difficult it can be to not have that choice and then to instead it, it is always a negotiation. It is always a favor.

Laura Tolkoff (24m 16s):
So in your book, one of the things that you know is that one of the most important ways to improve access is to slow the speed of cars. There is some work I think that’s been happening in this arena across many states with Vision Zero and many other efforts. Senator Wiener here locally is a big champion for this authoring two bills this year. One to put speed governors and cars, the other one that we’re sponsoring, which is directing Caltrans to put more funding into bike, pet and transit priority infrastructure every time they go and repave a roadway. But it feels sometimes like it’s two steps forward. One step back, can you talk about where you think that movement is going and what needs to happen for it to be successful?

Anna Zivarts (24m 60s):
Yeah, I mean I think that the speed conversation is hard, you know, because our communities are so sprawly and the more affordable things tend to be further out, right? Like then there’s this like desire, you know, people need to travel long distances to get where they need to go. Especially If You can’t afford to live somewhere more centrally. And so there’s a tension right between that and then the need for us to actually slow down cars in our communities so they’re safer because almost everything else we do in the safety space isn’t working right now. I know traffic deaths, like there’s some dangers by design report just came out and, and they’re continuing to go up in most communities. Washington State arc traffic deaths continue to rise. We need to figure out how we can travel less far, less fast, less frequently to begin to bring those numbers down.

Jeff Wood (25m 46s):
What’s the status of some of the data collection related to some of that stuff? Because I feel like there’s

Anna Zivarts (25m 51s):
Related to crashes,

Jeff Wood (25m 52s):
Well not just crashes, but just like you know, where the sidewalks are Oh yes. Or the ability of Google to give you information that’s not just car oriented.

Anna Zivarts (26m 1s):
Yeah, I mean the data piece is interesting. I think there is a huge potential with AI with some of the mapping work that needs to happen. Like I know in Washington state for example, we don’t know where sidewalks exist and where they don’t exist as a state, like both on state roads and local roads. Like that data just doesn’t exist. And yet we have like the state for a while had this fleet of airplanes that went around and like took pictures of the highways to make sure there weren’t too many big cracks, right? Like we have a lot of data on roads, but we don’t extend that to the, you know, places people move outside of vehicles. And so in Washington state we got some funding to get that sidewalk mapping work to happen. It’s gotten complicated. I think we were supposed to get images from Bing and now they don’t wanna share them.

Anna Zivarts (26m 42s):
So we’ve gotta get images from somewhere for the AI to be able to do their analysis for that data to exist. But yeah, having the ability to actually know what the status is of our pedestrian and bike infrastructure when we don’t and we just never have because we’re like, oh, it’s part of the public right of away, but it’s not our problem as the local jurisdiction, the city or the county or the state to care about that. Then we have huge, huge discrepancies and you know, whether it’s repaired or not,

Jeff Wood (27m 8s):
I think I used to go to the SDA website to get aerial photography, so maybe they have it. Maybe a five meter resolution. Yeah. Don’t have to go to Bing or Google or whoever else.

Laura Tolkoff (27m 17s):
Well, so now I think we’re gonna kind of move to the call to action. I think, first of all, is there a question we haven’t asked you that you wish people including ourselves would ask you?

Anna Zivarts (27m 28s):
You know, the, the sort of, the more I’m in this space and, and in rooms where, you know, people are like wanting to come up with the solutions. I think ultimately what we need to be doing is changing who are in the rooms that are deciding things so that we have more people in those rooms who have the experience of not being able to drive. And I think, you know, a lot of the work I’m doing right now is in that direction. How do we get different people in those rooms where decisions get made, whether that’s the transit board, can we get some transit riders on the transit board? Yeah. And shouldn’t be that hard. But it is, you know, because we have these systems where, you know, decisions get made by elected leaders and elected leaders to get elected, have to be able to drive around to events ’cause they have to go to a lot of events and driving’s the only fast way to do it.

Anna Zivarts (28m 8s):
So really thinking about, you know, what are decision making structures like and how do we change who is in those places? And making sure that if we are creating, you know, like equity round tables or those sort of youth, you know, involvement groups, that, that it’s not like a token little table thing that we actually are giving people real decision making power.

Jeff Wood (28m 27s):
I’m wondering If You could tell us a little bit about the week without driving. Yes.

Anna Zivarts (28m 31s):

Jeff Wood (28m 31s):
Maybe you have some stickers and other things I do

Laura Tolkoff (28m 34s):
Hanging around

Anna Zivarts (28m 34s):
For that. Yeah, so the week without Driving is, is one of the ways that I with this work have figured out to help educate elected leaders and decision makers and just the general public who does have the option of driving what it’s like to be a non-driver. We started it in at Disability Rights Washington back in 2021. And the inspiration really came from some of the work I’d done with the Justice for janitor work back in the day where we would ask elected leaders to shadow a, a janitor for the day and understand sort of their life. And I did one of these if then candidate Uriel Bowser, who’s the mayor of DC now. And she met and I was there to film at this housekeeper and housekeeper had to pay twice for transit ’cause she transferred right from the bus to the metro system in DC And at that point you had to, you know, pay for that transfer and it was a big daily cost for her.

Anna Zivarts (29m 19s):
And that conversation made me think, oh my gosh, what if elected leaders were actually doing this more often and recognizing some of these barriers. So that’s where it came from. The idea is that elected leaders and folks join us for one week this year. It’s September 30th through October 6th. And they get to experience what it’s like to not drive for a week. And they can still get rides, they can take transit, they can walk, they can roll. And then we ask them to reflect on that experience. And if it was easy for them, great. Maybe they can afford to live somewhere really walkable with great transit and asking them to reflect on that. And if it was really hard and they couldn’t do certain trips, asking them to reflect on, you know, what that experience was like and what it might’ve taught them about the privilege of folks who do have that choice and those who don’t.

Anna Zivarts (30m 2s):
So I encourage folks to, you can learn more. And we now partner with America Walks and it’s a national campaign. Last year we had 41 out of 50 states participating. This year we’re going for all 50. And you know, advocacy groups can agree to co-host it, individuals can sign up, elected leaders can be encouraged to do it. If you’re an advocacy group, we ask you to, you know, you can go to your council and get them to do a proclamation. So it’s an official thing that all council members are thinking about or city, you know, electeds. And so yeah, there’s some flyers in the back. There’s stickers in the back. They’re right next to George who’s selling books in the back. And I’ve been asked to make sure that you all know that and If You can please do purchase a book.

Anna Zivarts (30m 43s):
It’s a great gift for your parents who may be aging out of driving. I’ve had a lot of wonderful conversations with my own parents about, you know, have you thought about this? And what is the plan? And I, I think having a book as a conversation point is a nice way to do that rather than, you know, just

Jeff Wood (30m 59s):
Taking their keys. That’s yes, that’s a, that’s a hard one, right? That’s a hard one. Yeah. Are there any stories specifically about the week without driving from elected officials that stood out to you? I mean, obviously there’s a bunch in the book and I want people to buy the book so they can read all the stories. Yeah. But there must be one that kind of stands out.

Anna Zivarts (31m 13s):
Hmm. I mean I think that that emotional burden piece that we were getting to earlier, right? We heard from a council member, a couple of folks actually, and I wasn’t expecting this. Like, I was expecting that, oh gosh, you know, I had to wait a long time for the bus and wow, we really need that bus shelter now. Now I’m gonna go get that money and build that bus shelter. Like those kinds of stories. But a bunch of the stories came from folks who then had to ask for rides places because you know, a lot of our state is very car dependent, and so the only way to be able to get around is to be able to ask for a ride. And so folks had to do that and they had to do it for a lot of social activities. And then so they chose not to, and they, and at the end of the week, they started feeling like they weren’t having a social life.

Anna Zivarts (31m 54s):
They were feeling disconnected, they were feeling depressed. And it was just one week. I’m like, can you imagine what this like for folks who, you know, for every time they wanna go out to dinner with friends, they have to ask for a ride. And so I think that was one of the really interesting pieces that I saw. Well,

Laura Tolkoff (32m 8s):
Let’s give on a round of applause. Thank you so much.

Anna Zivarts (32m 14s):
Thank you all for coming. I’m happy to sign books, If You, buy them over there in the back with George. So go visit George and I’m happy to sign

Laura Tolkoff (32m 22s):
Definitely this, and this was a great conversation, but it’s still only the tip of the iceberg. So do by the book by and hear more about the Great.

Anna Zivarts (32m 33s):
Thank you.

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