In my more than 30 years helping King County Metro grow, I know we’re not simply delivering a more affordable fare, increased frequency of service, a new bus route, translated schedules or an updated wheelchair securement system. Rather, when we improve transit, we expand opportunity. I’ve seen how mobility benefits communities, and I’ve lived it, too.

During my childhood in south King County, transit was my family’s only option for getting from a place to a place. We were a family of four—Black, low-income and raised by our mother, whose disability prevented her from driving.

Even so, my mother provided us with opportunities that would brighten our future. To get to those opportunities, we used transit. Those journeys took us to places in life far beyond what we could have ever imagined.

Some of those destinations included the schools in Seattle where I’d earn admission to college. When I earned my degree, I knew exactly where I wanted to work and applied for every Metro job opening in the newspaper. I served in 14 positions before becoming General Manager.

To this day, transit is where I work, read, rest and reminisce. And whether it’s bus or rail, I still enjoy riding to a place. But place is never just a physical address. Place is socio-economic. Place is one’s position within society. Place is a specific condition. Place is a state of mind.

Growing up, our family’s ability to move by way of the transit system was life-changing. Unfortunately, movement through the transit system was not always straightforward and efficient. My childhood transit system was not designed with input from family units of poor, Black, disability-challenged dreamers. Nor did the system intentionally look out for English-language learners and foreign-born dreamers. Still, transit helped to move this 10-year-old dreamer to a better place.

Imagine if transit had been intentional about including the voices of historically marginalized and silenced communities in the process of planning! What place would that bring us to—both personally and in our region? Guided by the communities we serve, that imagined place is exactly where Metro is going.

At Metro, we are a microcosm of what is happening across the nation. We are holding ourselves accountable for the role we played in allowing historical systemic practices that cause harm to persist. Even within Metro, marginalized and silenced minorities have been unfairly bearing the weight of an uncaring system. As we are doing the work externally to benefit the region, we are also internally moving to an organizational culture where all are welcome and all have the opportunity to thrive.

Going forward, we will remain focused on responding and recovering from the pandemic, double-down on prioritizing equitable and sustainable systems, and continue to modernize how we provide services to ensure readiness for the very bright and very different mobility system of a post-pandemic world.

However, we cannot achieve our potential as a transit agency or as a region without you. While Metro operates the buses, it’s the community onboard that knows the best way home. Thank you for riding with us on this incredible journey.

Terry White is General Manager of King County Metro. To learn more, please watch the “King County Metro’s Long Game” video and visit the “General Manager’s vision” webpage.