By Rachel Dornhelm
At first glance, you might not think that cuts to public transportation might affect someone’s health. But Devilla Ervin understands the impact firsthand. The 23-year-old lives in West Oakland and a few years ago worked the graveyard shift at McDonald’s.
“I got off work at 4 a.m. and there was no bus service,” he describes. “And so I was walking in my community of West Oakland, with shootings and violence, 45 minutes to an hour to get home.”
Yet, in addition to the threat of violence, Ervin also described a sense of social isolation that he’s felt as a result of recent cuts to bus service in his area.
“It’s not good for physical and mental health,” he says. “It wasn’t good for my spiritual health too, because I couldn’t get to church. A lot of the bus cuts were around International Boulevard where my church is.”
Access to public transportation is what policy types call a “social determinant of health” or SDOH. Health is about much more than health care, than simply seeing a doctor.