Earlier this year, Metro Transit proposed cutting back bus service in Southeast Seattle, perhaps eliminating the bus route 42, the only route that goes from downtown through the ID, and to Rainier Beach.
Many people in the community voiced their concerns, notably the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS). It argued that the bus route serves the most racially diverse neighborhood in our city, and many individuals use it as their main mode of transportation. It serves many of the elderly, those with disabilities, and families with children. So what will happen to them?
The King County Council previously hoped that eliminating route 42 would prevent duplication of rail service, but Diane Narasaki, executive director of ACRS, pointed out that many of the low-income residents in Southeast Seattle cannot afford to pay for the light rail on a regular basis.
ACRS reported that more than 200 postcards flooded into the council offices protesting the elimination.
Well, the council listened.
On May 18, it announced through an amendment that it will restore the portion of route 42 that runs from the ID to the Columbia City Light Rail Station. Testimony heard at a meeting on April 28 played a key role in this change. After hearing the concerns of the community, Councilmembers Larry Gossett, Dow Constantine, and Larry Phillips proposed the amendment.
While all of route 42 isn’t retained, it’s clear that the council is making a good effort in listening to the needs of the communities, balancing that with its goal in making public transit more efficient in the city. This is a good example of the give-and-take that is characteristic of a governing body and its constituency. This can only happen with an approachable council and a participating and dynamic community.
We want to give some heartfelt thanks to ACRS and the many neighborhood residents for speaking up for the good of their community, especially speaking up for those who are unable to speak up for themselves because they cannot speak English.
In a world where it is easy to be cynical about government or your fellow community members, it’s heartening to see moments where people work together for a common goal. There are two lessons from this. The first is an obvious one — in order for change to be made, you have to be active, take a stand, and be heard. Nothing will be accomplished if no one says anything. The second lesson is that it is important to be empathetic. The council was empathetic when it heard the communities’ concerns. Likewise, ACRS was empathetic in speaking up for its hundreds of clients. Though we have a tendency to laude traits like decisiveness and efficiency, there is more to be said about people who stand up for one another. ♦