By Lisa Belden
Island Forum | Special to the Reporter
This morning, (July 3) I checked Sound Transit's website on what help there is for disabled persons who need wheelchair or other assistance to get to or from the airport and downtown Seattle via light rail.
My husband is such a person. He suffered a stroke nine months ago, and is mobility-impaired.
His law office is in downtown Seattle. He needs to travel to and from the airport for his work, to fly to Iowa to help with his elderly mother and to visit with our grown children living out-of-state. He needs to fly to various places for depositions and meetings with experts and lay witnesses, clients and other attorneys, and he needs to be able to fly alone.
Sound Transit's website states that there is a telephone number that one can call four to six hours in advance of one’s flight to obtain either a wheelchair (which I assume comes with a human being to push the wheelchair when one is traveling alone?), or to obtain a golf cart at Sound Transit's airport station to help with the very long distance between the light rail station at the airport and the airport terminal.
Sound Transit placed its station far from the airport terminal areas, making it impossible for the mobility-impaired, and many other King County citizens, to access the light rail to and from the airport without this assistance.
Sound Transit's website posted a telephone number to call to obtain wheelchair or golf cart assistance between the airport light rail station and the airport's terminal areas for ticketing and baggage.
When I called the listed telephone number around 10 a.m. this morning regarding the assistance, no one answered the phone and there was a message that “the mailbox is full.” There was no way to reach anyone for the assistance and not even an option to leave a message!.Sound Transit is required by law to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Yet there is no way to reach anyone at Sound Transit to obtain wheelchair or golf cart assistance at the airport light rail station when no one answers the phone and you can't even leave a message.
Further, there is no assistance at all for the disabled or senior citizens or those with a lot of luggage, as far as I can tell, in the reverse direction going from the airport terminal to downtown via light rail.
And when you get to the light rail destination station, such as the one at Pioneer Square (and likely at other stations), it gets worse. Due to the steepness and narrowness of the escalators, mobility-impaired and disabled persons, and those with luggage beyond a single small roller bag or backpack, have to use an elevator to exit and to enter the station — an elevator that Sound Transit knows is being used by homeless or vagrants as a toilet.
And from there, after enduring the stench and bio-hazards left in the elevator at the Pioneer Square station's exit at street level, there is no parking space or even a lane in which to park or stop a car on 3rd Avenue to pick people up from the station. There is a bus-only travel lane along the entire 3rd Avenue block, so the only place where a disabled person or person with luggage can be picked up (or dropped off) is a long walk north to the block's northwest corner, where there are two to three spaces for cars to stop. And there, at the northwest corner, I found those spaces were taken up by taxis.
So if a disabled person or person with luggage can make the walk to the end of the block, there's no place to be picked up unless the driver is lucky enough to find a place to park.
King County taxpayers are paying an enormous tax burden to support light rail, yet what we are getting is a system that is very difficult, if not impossible, to access between the airport and downtown Seattle, if one has luggage or is a senior citizen, weak, infirm or disabled. That includes a lot of us.
This problem obviously also concerns getting to or from work on light rail if you have Pioneer Square and maybe other downtown stations to travel to or from, if disabled or older or traveling with young children.
Please fix these problems. King County taxpayers are paying a fortune to Sound Transit. The system should be nice and usable.
Lisa Belden is an Island resident.