Meet David Bouchard, a Blind Portlander with a Vision for Transit

Not enough braille and large print. Quiet or unclear stop announcements. No accessible real-time arrival information. As a blind transit rider, Portlander David Bouchard has a unique perspective on where systems like TriMet fall short on accommodating everyone in the community.

“Since I can’t drive, I’m transit-dependent, and I realized very quickly that public transportation is not what it needs to be — just about everywhere,” he said.

Shortly after moving to Portland in 2015, Bouchard joined Bus Rider’s Unite (BRU) and began his quest to promote more affordable and accessible transit for all riders in the Rose City. Since then, he’s served on steering committees and met with elected officials and transit board members to advocate for BRU’s vision.

The biggest win came in 2018 when Bouchard helped BRU pass a low-income fare initiative with TriMet that cut daily fares in half for low-income Portlanders and reduced their monthly fares by 72 percent.

Today, Bouchard is focused on relaunching the Rider Advocate Program that TriMet ran from 1994 to 2009 but shut down due to budget cuts. Its goal is to hire community members to be a recognizable presence on bus and MAX lines to resolve conflicts among riders and showing others how to safely navigate the system.

The opportunity to help reduce incidents of harassment toward frequently marginalized groups is what inspires Bouchard to continue his work in transit justice.

“Either because you have a disability or because you’re black or because you’re a woman, or all three,” he said. “It’s really about lifting up other people’s voices.”

Who else should we feature for this series? We’re taking nominations this week for other local changemakers in the world of transportation and mobility. Nominate a changemaker here.