Transit Stories: Abby Griffith

Portland, Oregon: OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon

I was born in Ethiopia. I moved to the US in 2008 when I was 14 years old. I am blind and was adopted by a family that lives in Richfield, Washington, a very rural area. In Richfield, where I grew up, there is no way to get around without owning a private car. After graduating from high school, I moved to Vancouver to go to Washington State University. My apartment was an eighteen-minute drive from campus, but it took me two and a half hours to three hours each way to take the bus. For a 9 am class, I had to get up at 4 am and leave for the bus at 5 am to arrive on time. The commute was exhausting and took way too much of my time. Distracting from important aspects of life like building a social life.

This experience made me a transit advocate for the Vancouver and Portland area. I currently live in Vancouver and travel by bus and train to work in Portland. I am a Bus Riders United organizer at OPAL, Environmental Justice Oregon. We work with transit-dependent individuals, including elderly people, youth, and disabled people. For many of us, public transit, taxis, Lyft, and Uber are the only options. These services can be very expensive. We, just like everyone else, need to get out to the grocery shop, go to the doctor, and get together with friends.

If the bus doesn’t go where I need to go. I have to pay 24-30 dollars for a Lyft or an Uber. Sometimes I ask for rides, but often I hear, “I am busy. Can you take an Uber or a Lyft?”. There was a time when I had to skimp on food to save money for transportation. As the Bus Riders Unite Coordinator, I hear from other transit riders about having to balance transportation costs against other basic needs. One of our members, an elderly person, has to walk 12 blocks to catch a bus, and he is not alone in facing such challenges.  

Transit should be a human right; we should have the ability to move freely like everyone else, but we have to fight for transit access. Investing in public transportation will benefit riders and the climate. We need funding to address riders’ needs. We need fearless, frequent service everywhere, granting us access to jobs, social opportunities, shopping, and healthcare. In other words, access to transit means freedom for us.

Having lived in rural areas, and urban areas, the need for safe, accessible, affordable transit is very important. We need Congress to invest in expanding transit service and fund operations.

About Transit Stories

Transit Stories” is a series of real-life experiences with public transit in the U.S. We feature the first-hand experience of public transit riders from across the country. From large cities to small towns, we will document the experiences of the millions of users of busses, trains, ferries, and other forms of public transit in the US. Public transit is essential to our communities, to cooling the planet, to advancing equity. Transit is essential to our very lives.

There is a unique opportunity for the country to make a historic investment in public transit funding to help the country build back better. 

For media inquiries, contact Doug Gordon,



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