Courtesy Wikimedia commons

We attended the Rainier Beach Youth Transit Justice Initiative event held March 31 and learned a lot about the challenges that youth (and others in southeast Seattle) face in using our transit system.

This youth initiative is grant-funded and organized by Puget Sound Sage and the Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition. About 15 young people from several middle and high schools in southeast Seattle have been working for a year on this project. The youth surveyed 200 residents in Rainier Beach and developed a set of recommendations they’d like the community to help them accomplish. Their recommendations will ultimately be incorporated into Seattle’s neighborhood plan update process.

At the event, the youth presented their survey findings and recommendations, then we all met in small groups to brainstorm action items that would address the problems they identified. Here’s a quick rundown of the problems:

  • High school students who live within 2.5 miles of their school do not qualify for school-issued ORCA cards. (It can cost $50 per month for a student to get a card to get to and from school.)
  • ORCA cards are too hard to get, especially for reduced-fare users.
  • There are not enough connections between light rail, bus stops, housing, cultural hubs, and business centers, and safety is a concern.

And here’s a summary of the action items generated from the small group conversations:

1. Increase places where ORCA cards are sold and can be reloaded.

  • Additional places should include all grocery stores, DSHS, stores, banks, schools, local businesses, and neighborhood locations such as community centers and libraries.
  • There should be more locations to apply for and get youth passes and reduced fare passes.
  • Kiosks should be installed in schools so youth can purchase and reload their cards.
  • Metro and Sound Transit should team up at the beginning of the school year to go to all high schools and offer youth an opportunity to get ORCA cards and youth passes.

2. Make people more aware of where they can purchase and reload ORCA cards.

3. Make access to reduced-fare passes easier. Provide more options for low-income people to pay a reduced fare.

  • Offer ORCA cards through DSHS and schools.
  • Change the application process for youth and reduced fare passes.

4. Organizing for change – things they may pursue to move their agenda forward.

  • Meet with Metro, Sound Transit, and the school district.
  • Convene an all-high schools event for youth around transportation issues.
  • Plan an “awareness” week to raise awareness about these issues, get people to sign petitions or lobby for change.
  • Meet with elected representatives.
  • Lobby the school district to change their policy and reduce the distance from school to .5 mile to receive a school-issued ORCA card.
  • Lobby state legislators to assure money for public transportation.
  • Involve PTAs in lobbying for more locations to get youth passes.
  • Have people sign a petition, including getting local businesses willing to sell and reload ORCA cards, to encourage the set-up of more locations to access ORCA cards.
  • Invite Metro staff to shadow a student on the bus.

5. Create a better connection between Rainier Beach and light rail.

  • Create a shuttle or circulator that would connect the business and cultural centers of RB to the RB light rail station at Henderson and Martin Luther King Way S.
  • Improve street and/or bus shelter lighting along Henderson (do a neighborhood walk to identify what’s needed).
  • If Metro puts in lighting that can be turned on by a rider to signify they are waiting for the bus, put directions up about how to use it. They are confusing!
  • Improve safety (initiate a block watch program, have bicycle police patrol between light rail stations and the surrounding area).
  • Notify SDOT about broken sidewalks.