To Discount or Not to Discount

I’m filled with some trepidation about posting this blog. I ask that any comments be respectful and nonjudgemental — not just to me but to anyone who responds. Everyone’s choices are their choices and ought to be respected.

So the topic is discounted transportation … oh yeah baby!

I recently decided to ride transit at full price. I’ve never ridden transit at full price except for the one-off ride. I’ve always struggled with discounted rides allowed to me just because I’m blind. All things being equal, why shouldn’t I pay full price?

I’ve had people tell me that it isn’t equal because I don’t have options, etc, etc. But the thing is … I do. I have had options and the only difference is that the sighted people sitting next to me on BART probably can drive, and I can’t. Is the ability to drive really a nonequalizer? I’m not convinced it is. And … I’m making a huge assumption that my fellow commuters can drive.

The Bay Area is an expensive place to live and an expensive place to commute whether you drive or take public transit. In 2018, I was earning $84K and tttaking public transit to and frommm work. My co-commuters could have been earning more tthen mee, as much as me, and many, I’m certain, made less than me. and yet, they were all paying more than me. I was only paying one third of the cost to ride transit.

Many have told me that I don’t have the option but to ride transit. I argue that I do have options. I could car pool. I could take ride share. I could take a very long bus ride instead of BART and pay a little less. I could hire a driver. Some people, some I call friends, would say that these options are a “blind tax” and indeed no option at all. Well, what about the sighted person who doesn’t drive? They don’t have an option either. Or do they somehow simply because they can see but choose not to drive? My mother didn’t drive until she was 29. She had two children to care for and many doctor appointments and didn’t drive. For those years, her driving was not an option.

Many people choose not to drive and choose not to buy a car. Again, one can argue that at least they have an option. But perhaps not. Sometimes, paying a mortgage and owning your house is more important than owning a car.

And let’s be frank … who the hell really wants to drive in the Bay Area. It’s a shit commute wherever you go. So, many, many, many sighted people I know feel like public transpo is the easy choice and the only option.

So back to me …

In 2019, I started my own business and earned less than one month of my previous salary. I could argue that I can’t afford public transpo and should keep my discounted card. But that card has been nothing but annoying since day one. I have to renew it every couple of years … as if I’m suddenly going to get my sight back and be less disabled. And of course, the entire process of renewing my card isn’t completely accessible. Most annoyingly, it requires an authority to sign off and say I’m still legally blind.

I don’t judge anyone who uses discounted transit but I’ve always felt guilty. I’ve tried justifying it with many different arguments. But in my mind, and no one else has to agree, I can’t preach equality and independence if the only difference between my fellow passengers and me is my blindness. I can afford the cost of the whole ride. I can’t go around assuming that all sighted people can and should drive just like people shouldn’t assume that all people with disabilities aare also low-income.

For me, I don’t believe I should cut to the front of the line just because I’m blind. Now when I was pregnant, I wanted to because standing was hard. Just like when I was pregnant I asked to sit in the seats nearest to the BART doors. again, all things being equal, my blindness doesn’t prevent me from standing. So, I don’t usually like sitting by the doors.

I don’t like this special type of treatment, so I have to be honest with myself, why do I allow it with transit?

When I rode BART for the first time in the new year and my discounted disability transit card failed, and I learned it was because it expired, I made the conscious choice right then and there to get my own full-priced clipper card. I’ll enjoy my discount again when I’m a senior and it is offered to all seniors –despite disability, income, and other characteristics. By then, I figure I would have earned it.

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