-For The Herald-
With the official start of the Beyond the Borders Connector earlier this month, Harriet Johnson, 61, has regained her freedom.
Beyond the Borders is a free bus service for people who are disabled, a senior, or low-income.
“When Pierce Transit left, the biggest need was for those who otherwise couldn’t get around,” Mayor Dave Enslow said.
“A program like this is a way in which we can meet a need in the community,” Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy said.
Johnson, who is partially blind, is one of these people that rely on transit.
When Pierce County Transit left Sumner, doing everyday tasks, like shopping, became a burden.
“Just to go grocery shopping and to get medicine, I had to take five busses,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t get many groceries either.”
Space was cramped on those five busses, so she didn’t have much room for groceries.
“It was such a hassle,” she said.
The hassle of taking the five busses prevented her from going shopping as often as she would like. She went grocery shopping once a week, or even as little as once a month.
“I can go every day now,” Johnson said.
Before, to get to the Senior Center, Johnson was forced to walk nearly one-and-a-half miles.
“My legs would get so tired,” Johnson said. She would have to sit every time she got to a bench.
Now, she can take the bus from the Sounder station to the Senior Center.
“It’s been wonderful, I can go places now,” Johnson said.
The route connects Sumner to both Bonney Lake and Puyallup. From Puyallup, riders can get just about anywhere.
The new found mobility isn’t the only thing Beyond the Borders has going for it.
“The people and drivers are wonderful” Johnson said. “They’ll pick up carts and help out.”
Margaret Armit, 75, who has been riding the bus since its start, agreed.
“The bus driver is really friendly,” she said.
Beyond the Borders is in a trial period until June 30, and is funded by a $700,000 grant. After the trial period, it will be determined if the bus is needed.
“It’ll be terrible if it ends,” Johnson said. She would have to rely on other transit systems in which she’s had bad experiences.
On a route that would take her three blocks from Safeway in Auburn, Johnson has been asked for her groceries by people at the bus station.
“I’d get scared someone would take my cart,” Johnson said.
While in Tacoma with her cane, Johnson got on a crowded bus full of kids and was forced to stand.
“None of the kids would get up,” Johnson said. “The kids had to be asked by the bus driver to stand.”
If enough people ride the bus, then it will continue to be funded. For this reason, Johnson does everything she can to promote Beyond the Borders.
“I have brochures,” Johnson said. “If I see someone in a wheelchair taking a normal bus, I’ll give one to them.”
“I hope it lasts longer,” She said. “I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”