Annadiana Johnson grew up in Portland and worked as a computer systems engineer. Getting around used to be easy for her, but a health scare changed her transportation needs forever. We sat down to talk with her about her transportation experience now that she lives in a retirement community in Forest Grove. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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Metro: How have your transportation needs evolved over time?
Annadiana Johnson: Well, I used to drive. But, because of illness, I started having occasions when I'd get really tired. I had an instance when I lost consciousness for a few seconds while I was driving. And it just scared me right out from behind the wheel because I didn't want to kill anybody or myself. I parked my car and started using mass transit.
I use the bus and the MAX. I use a walker a lot of times if I'm traveling short distances. I use a mobility scooter if there's a long distance in between places I’m traveling. It's more comfortable if I'm traveling all day. I do have to drive on the streets sometimes, because the sidewalks are bad. I mean, there are places where there are no sidewalks and it leaves the necessity to ride in the road with a mobility scooter, or even with a walker. It's easier just to use the bike lanes. Fortunately, there are bike lanes everywhere.
Metro: How do you make yourself visible?
"I had an instance when I lost consciousness for a few seconds while I was driving. And it just scared me right out from behind the wheel because I didn't want to kill anybody or myself."
Johnson: It's very important to wear bright clothing. I have my scooter decorated with bright colors and American flag, which I fly to honor my father. You need to make sure that people can see you. It's very important. Otherwise you're going to become part of the scenery as opposed to being able to enjoy it.
Metro: What’s working well about using transit?
Johnson: Fortunately, TriMet's got arms and legs everywhere. The bus stops are very close to where I live. People are very accommodating when you come onto a bus with a wheelchair or a mobility scooter. They'll get up out of the way. I practice in the elevators to make sure that I can turn around in a very tight space. I haven't run over anybody's toes yet.
The bus drivers are more accommodating and more polite. They wait until people sit in their seats. If I’m just using a walker, the bus drivers put the ramp down, because I can't pick up my walker to it. I’ve noticed that there a lot more of us out here and walkers are a lot more prevalent. So I see a lot of educational things going on now to make it easier for the retired and the disabled.
Metro: What’s not working well?
Johnson: Information can be difficult to read while on the train, in particular. It would be great if information was posted closer to the accessibility areas, because I can't read it even with my glasses on. I can't read that far away. On the bus, at least I can say, "Well, let me off near this place," and the bus driver can do that. But on the train, you can't do that. When traveling to unfamiliar places, you want to know the next stop. So it'd be nice if the information was closer.
Metro: What’s your vision for a better transportation system?
"I notice that a lot of people do rely on their phones to get information on transit schedules, and it would be nice if I could get that as a service on the train as opposed to having to pay for cell phone service."
Johnson: My vision for a better transit system would be to have some of the more outlying areas included in the transportation system and, possibly, making Wi-Fi available on the trains. That way I can watch a movie from start to finish when I'm traveling, but that's kind of selfish, I think. I don't have a smartphone. I notice that a lot of people do rely on their phones to get information on transit schedules, and it would be nice if I could get that as a service on the train as opposed to having to pay for cell phone service.
Sometimes traffic lights change and you're still in the middle of the street, not having made it all the way across. It would be nice if the traffic lights stay on long enough for you to actually across the street.
Metro: What should decision-makers know about you and people like you?
Johnson: Well I've noticed that there are a lot of changes in the works with how the transportation is evolving. Very frequently there's not enough space to accommodate people with alternate mobility needs. So having covered bus stops makes a big difference if you have to wait for the next bus. Simple things like that. Yes, I know it's an expense. But depends on which direction you want to go.