Lisamaria Martinez, who is legally blind, moved from Los Angeles to the Bay Area for its public transportation. (Photo Courtesy Lighthouse SF)
Lisamaria Martinez, who is legally blind, moved from Los Angeles to the Bay Area for its public transportation. (Photo Courtesy Lighthouse SF)

By Bryan Goebel

People with disabilities often rely on BART to get around the Bay Area, especially those who are blind or visually impaired. Another strike next week could make commuting to work, school or a medical provider impossible for some.

Frank Welte rides BART from San Leandro to San Francisco’s Civic Center every weekday with the help of his 4-year-old guide dog, Jeep. He’s an information and referral specialist at the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

His commute is typically an hour and 15 minutes from door to door, but during the recent BART strike things got complicated.

“I cannot just hop in my car and drive somewhere if my bus is gone or my train is gone,” Welte says. “That means that I have to be more creative in finding solutions.”

Last time around he was able to take a paratransit van, a service typically reserved for people who can’t physically use trains or buses. His commute took a lot longer because of clogged highways, and he had to leave his dog at home.

“I use a cane well, so I was able to manage well enough, but it was still an inconvenience that I couldn’t use my preferred mobility tool with me to travel to work,” he says.

Lisamaria Martinez moved from Los Angeles to the Bay Area for its public transportation. She is legally blind and uses a cane.

“For the first time in my life I was able to go where I wanted to go when I wanted to go and not have to rely on someone to take me there,” says Martinez.

Another BART strike would mean that her commute time from Union City to San Francisco would double, because she has to take a few buses and walk a greater distance to get her 2-year-old to day care.

That’s a three-hour commute each way, all for eight hours of work, she says.

  • I_rican99

    Protest BART Unions’ Greedy Agenda!

    August 4th, 2013
    Union Square (Geary Street)
    12 noon-3:00pm

    We, the riders have a voice and we are the majority! Let’s show BART unions and workers that we no longer want to pay for their inflated wages!

    BART fares are some of the highest in the country and they are talking about raising it nearly 20%. The stations are unkempt, outdated and dirty. We, the rider’s deserve more!

    Bring a piece of paper with your written complaints! Let it represent your willingness to accept employment with BART at the current wages…Let your voice be seen and heard.

    Squash higher fares, meet at the square! Please pass along, repost!

    • Osowoofy

      Frankly, there’s enough mud to sling at both the unions and management.

      I found the recent giddy mock-up of new BART cars at MacArthur Station almost laughable, when nearly 50% of the escalators didn’t work at the stations, elevator out of service announcements were up to a personal record of 6, and ticket machines were either out of order or not taking either credit/debit cards.

  • thomas

    Thank you for finally examining how the strike effects low income and disabled people. The striker make an average wage of 74k a year, making them upper middle class. This is a REGRESSIVE STRIKE in which those upper middle class workers (a household of 2 BART employees would take in almost 150k!) take advantage of the vulnerability of the disabled, lower class and middle class riders. These riders are the ones that can’t bike to work, can’t telecommute, can’t take time off, &c, but instead must spend an extra 2 hours a day getting to their low paying jobs. The BART strikers should be ashamed of themselves and the impact they are having on the people they are supposed to be serving.

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