Archive for the ‘opinions’ Category
Over the past three weeks, thousands of Transit riders in Charleston, Summerville, Goose Creek and Beaufort have been given an informational flyer on the Congressional Election “We Ride Together, We Vote Together.“ (Downloadable PDF)
If you would like to help hand these flyers out on the buses to other riders, a very powerful way to encourage transit riders to vote, please call William Hamilton at (843) 870-5299.
Voters have the opportunity to choose between Elizabeth Colbert Busch (D) and Mark Sanford (R). If you have trouble getting to the polls, either campaign will be happy to arrange a ride to the polls for you Monday (for early voting) or Tuesday.
- Colbert Busch- http://colbertbuschforcongress.com/welcome/
- Sanford- http://www.marksanford.com/home/
Many riders have asked how this election is relevant to the quality of public transit we have in the Lowcountry. The answer is that even basic services like transit are now under constant threat. While large, well organized lobbies exist for the oil, automotive and highway construction industry, the thirty million transit riders have only begun organizing themselves into a national political force in the past year, when Congress slashed Transit funding from 20 to 18 percent of the Federal Transportation Budget. This triggered massive cuts in service across the United States.
What Poor Transit Systems are doing to the Lowcountry
For the people who depend on transit, a number which rose by 6% across the country last year, such cuts have drastic, even lethal effects. Riders making long walks home form now distant transit stops get hit by cars or become victims of crime. The elderly find themselves stranded as they age on Daniel Island. Those who lose their car, often then lose everything. They can’t ride the bus for a few weeks, scraping up the money for repairs while keeping their job. I’ve met successful people in Charleston who have confided in me that when they lost their car to a run of bad luck, the bus helped them rebuild their lives. Some are wealthy today.
In places like Beaufort, where the bus runs only to and from work once a day, entire lives are wasted with people left to do little more than work, wait and sleep. Shopping, civic and cultural activities are out of reach for people living on St. Helena Island an other rural communities. ”Going on the Bus” in Beaufort is viewed as a sort of living death in many rural communities Younger residents would rather leave, so they take their energy and talent elsewhere. Those who stay and ride have few options for spending their hard earned money.
Even for those who drive, the highway system has reached a point where it’s so large it can no longer be adequately maintained or further expanded with existing revenue. Younger people are giving up on the automobile altogether in increasing numbers. It just costs too much and takes up too much time. Throughout our public information campaign, Republicans and Democrats have both told us they want better transit.
The Congressman elected Tuesday will be the point person for all Federal involvement with local transit issues in the district. Fixing the problems with the long delayed intermodal center, making sure basic funding remains available, or helping replace some of our aging fleet of transit buses requires a Congressman’s support. We asked both candidates to ride. Colbert Busch rode the #41. Sanford never took a ride on a bus. We asked both candidates to answer two, relevant but simple questions. Colbert Busch answered. Sanford didn’t. Five Republicans did ride the bus: Moffly, Turner, Larkin, Hoffman & Bryant. Both candidates received phone calls from many riders asking them to ride and answer. You can read Colbert Busch’s full answers on the Flyer PDF. The flyer also provides contact information for the Sanford campaign so you can try to find out what his position is.
Please vote carefully on Tuesday. It was only eight years ago that CARTA resumed full operations after a disastrous two year near shut down. People died because the buses stopped running. We can argue about art in government buildings or how much Ft. Moultrie should be open, but when transit gets cut people lose their jobs, their families and sometimes their lives.
Transit is only one of several important issues in this election, but it touches on the core controversy of our time. Are we building a society which offers dignity and freedom to more people or are we building a society which concentrates power and wealth in the hands of a few? Real wealth requires a shared prosperity which has to include opportunities to travel, change jobs, shop, learn and enjoy our golden years for most people. Even those fortunate enough to be wealthy benefit from customers who can travel, employees who can get to work, patients who can access medial care before it requires an EMS trip, fellow citizens who participate in civic and cultural life and tourists who can enjoy our coast.
Free Markets, Competitive Economies
Free markets mean nothing to an elderly woman stranded on St. Helena Island who can’t get to a store. If we don’t have transit services which meet these needs, many capable people will relocate to, travel to or invest in other places which do. I’ve met gifted young people in Portland, Seattle and New York from South Carolina building lives which are rewarding without cars who left South Carolina and have no intention of returning. It wasn’t just about transit, but they abandoned their cars, built lives and they swear they’re not coming back. In the intensely competitive future, SC needs such talent and skill.
On Tuesday, vote like someone’s life depends on it, because it does.
The Ravenel Gateway District is the object of a Town of Mount Pleasant planning effort to improve the walkable, transit enabled and economically dynamic mixed use district in the area surrounding the East end of the Ravenel Bridge. Last night a meeting was held by the Town of Mt. Pleasant in the Cooper River Room at Waterfront Memorial Park to discuss possible directions. While we and our handout materials were stuck on the #4o bus downtown in the midst of a region wide traffic snarl which had it origins in a semi truck accident on the Don Holt Bridge over ten miles away, the town had printed out our emailed material and transit was extensively discussed at the meeting. We arrived just as the two hour meeting was ending. Thanks to all those who attended and spoke up for transit.
Over the next few years additional commercial, hotel and residential development in this area, combined with the reestablishment of a functional pedestrian sidewalk system with safe access able bus stops as road work ends could turn this valuable property in to an energetic economic driver. It already contains over 1000 hotel rooms, several shopping centers, restaurants, Patriot’s Point, the Wonders Way pedestrian and cycle path on the Bridge and Waterfront Memorial Park. It’s a great place for transit to connect visitors to the City of Charleston on the #40 Trans Mount Pleasant, to the rest of Mt. Pleasant on the #401 East Cooper Connector and by transfer to the beaches on the #402 Beach Island Flex. These same routes also bring people to work in this district and take college students downtown. Years of planning and investment have already been put into this effort and it’s become the largest single source of tax and fee revenue for the Town of Mt. Pleasant and a major source of employment for the region. Tourists from as far away as Germany are already choosing to Park Pleasantly and Play Downtown, enjoying Spoleto Sans Auto.
Our contribution yesterday was a short, detailed survey of the bus stops and CARTA services in the area which you can download as a PDF. Gateway Route Survey Final.pdf (On Google Docs).
Thanks to everyone who contributed to our effort to oppose the CARTA Cuts this month. We had a good visit to yesterday’s board meeting and were encourage to see the attitude of the board moving in a new direction. More members of the pubic spoke during the public comment period yesterday than at any CARTA board meeting in the past. While the message got garbled here and there, more people are riding transit in Charleston than ever before and revenues are higher than they have ever been while the cost per rider trip is down. Not every figure is hitting every projection, but they’re all continuing to get better. We learned that the system will go from using schedule data to plan bus trips to real time GPS data transmitted from the buses themselves this summer. You can use Google to plan your trips now on the CARTA website, Google maps, Iphones, Android Devices and Ipads. This summer you be able to get an estimated arrival time for your bus based on where it actually is and how fast it is moving.
Here is the PDF Continue the Progress Handout distributed at the meeting.
We’re also now actively involved in the national effort to improve transit with advocacy on the Federal level, where we’re joining communities across the US. www.supporttransit.org Representatives of the national organization attended part of yesterday’s meeting.
Two routes were combined, but it doesn’t appear more route cancellations are ahead. That could change. Most of the capacity of those routes will be redeployed to improve performance where buses are now running standing room only.
Here is the report as it appeared on WCBD Channel 2.
There was also a report on WCIV Channel 4 and two articles in the Post and Courier. http://www2.counton2.com/news/2012/may/16/carta-bus-riders-concerned-about-talk-rate-hike-an-ar-3805290/
The most important thing we’ve done this month is reinforce the CARTA Board’s commitment to building a better system. They’re under relentless pressure to slash service from people who don’t care about what happens to people who need transit to get to work. We can’t expect public officials to stand up for this system unless we do.
Our efforts will continue. Here is what you can do.
- Sign our petition online or in person to oppose further CARTA service cuts.
- Contact your federal, state, county and municipal representatives and ask them to commit to a plan for improved public transit.
- Check our calendar on the Hungryneck Straphangers website (see the menu bar above or our Facebook Page for the dates and locations of their meetings.
- Join our “Cling for CARTA” effort. Put a “Don’t X Transit” window cling at your home, organization or business and put an image of it on the Hungryneck Straphangers Facebook Page
- Ride the bus. Talk to your neighbors and other riders about the importance of improving transit with a target of reaching an annual ridership of 7.5 million by 2018.
- Contact us if you have ideas or questions firstname.lastname@example.org or (843) 870-5299.