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About Town: Senior Center Volunteer Focused on Moving People, Literally

Paul Lester is part of a Redmond Senior Center subcommittee proposing a loop-route shuttle service here.

Paul Lester is a mover and a shaker at the , and what he most wants to move are people around Redmond.

A member of the center’s senior advisory committee, he’s been an active advocate for improving local transportation options for Redmond seniors.

For his work on the transportation subcommittee, Lester was honored as an outstanding senior volunteer by Mayor John Marchione in May, but he credits his wife, Barb, a retired medical assistant who sat on the advisory committee for four years and remains very involved in the center’s programs, for encouraging him to get more involved.

Lester is not one to toot his own horn, quickly pointing out all of the other people involved in the issue he is so passionate about. In fact, for Lester, the major benefit of winning such an award is to raise awareness of the goals of the transportation subcommittee.

Lester is no stranger to transportation. The son of first-generation English immigrants, Lester moved here from Beverly, Mass., north of Boston, in 1955 for work at Boeing, where he worked on designing the interiors of airplanes from the Boeing 707 on up. Once he was transported here, Lester says he fell in love with the northwest. Lester first lived in West Seattle, then settled in Bellevue before buying his Redmond-area home (he’s about 300 feet from the city limits, he says) in 1983.

“Once you got me here I was never to go back,” he said.

Lester became very interested in the issue of transportation for Redmond seniors when that emerged as one of the highest priorities out of 10 recommendations the senior advisory committee developed for the city of Redmond, he said.

The committee has developed a proposal that the city buy and operate two 14-passenger vehicles in a loop that would serve the major residential areas, medical facilities, shopping areas, and the senior center, making it easier for participants to run errands and get to appointments without a car.

“What we wanted to do was facilitate getting people around town,” with a focus on seniors but also access for the public at large, Lester said. Currently, he said, the options for seniors typically require reservations and sometimes long wait times that can be a hindrance. He says the committee is also concerned that seniors may soon have more difficulty navigating city streets such as Redmond Way and Cleveland Street, which are slated to be turned into two-way arterials soon.

“It’s not only the best answer for seniors, but could serve the general public, and especially teens,” Lester said of the committee's van proposal.

The committee has studied similar programs in communities such as Fall City and Kent and has discussed possible collaboration with organizations such as . Lester said that though it would nice if King County Metro would operate such a service that, with cutbacks and already planned cuts to current service routes at that agency, it would not be a promising option in the near future.

As one of its identified priorities, the issue is one the Senior Center—and especially Lester—is focused on particularly now as the city of Redmond prepares to update its Transportation Master Plan. Lester says the committee’s goal is to ensure that transportation access for seniors is addressed in the plan. He says the service the center proposes would not be limited to seniors, however.

“Because the senior center is part of city government, we think it should be part of the city’s transportation master plan update,” Lester said. “They will finalize the update in November, so we will keep putting pressure on the city to prioritize.”

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