Vote for Better Transit

Elizabeth Colbert Busch ride the CARTA Bus

Elizabeth Colbert Busch rode the CARTA 41 Coleman Blvd. on March 14, 2013.

If you need flyers for your meeting, church or other event, please contact William Hamilton at (843) 870-5299.

You can download the new version of our Voter Information Flyer now

Twenty Thousand riders smart and determined enough to navigate Lowcountry Transit systems don’t need to be told who to vote for.  They need advocacy which puts transit on the election agenda and makes real information available on where the candidates stand regarding the ride. Candidates need real information and input from transit riding voters. Here is why, what and how we’re going to do it.  As of, April 23 over 12 thousand of our We Ride Together voter information flyers (PDF) have been distributed with the responses we received from both major candidates.

Colbert Busch rode the bus and answered our Questions.  Sanford did not ride or answer.  We encourage you to contact the Sanford Campaign directly for their position on public transit.  Other organizations are also downloading and printing out copies of our flyer for their members, employees, customers or community partners.

Transit Enabled Early Voting Now, Don’t Risk Waiting until Election Day

Early voting (with an excuse) has now begun.  You can vote in person at your county election commission HQ if you qualify for one of 17 reasons which include medical care issues, being over 65, being a full time student (the election falls during Exams and final school work for the year), being in the military or many other reasons.  You can also vote absentee through the mail.  Full voting information is available from SC Vote Now You can take CARTA to the Election Commission HQ on Headquarter’s Road, just to the west of the intersection of Leeds Avd. and Dorchester Rd. (Across from the CARTA operation center from all over the county. Below are the trips on Google Maps:

Update May 1,

 All events are now listed on our Calendar and have Facebook Events set up.

  • Organizers from Americans for Transit are working in Charleston now.  Printed Flyers are available now for your church, group or event.  We’re also reaching out to other organizations throughout the region and in Beaufort.
  • We’re looking for Transit Democracy Riders to ride various bus routes and hand out fliers.  It’s very effective.  Most people on active routes are able to contact over 50 riders per hour and people on the bus really read the material and often ask for additional copies. Contact us if you can ride between now and election day.
  • Look for upcoming articles and reports on the Farebox to Ballot Box effort in local media.  We’ll post links here and tweet them out on our eastccrider tritter feed.

Comment on our Hungryneck Straphangers Website at the bottom of this page or on Our Facebook Group Page

Why- Political Gridlock, Progress Stuck in Park

Mark Sanford asked to Ride the Bus at Campaign Office

We visited the campaign offices of Mark Sanford on March 23 to deliver our transit issues briefing book and to ask him to ride the bus.

American politics is “autocentric,” it tends to focus on the needs of the automobile.  Road projects drive local planning, budgets and politics.  We end up with roads like the 140 million dollar new Johnnie Dodds Blvd, where despite years of promises for “complete streets,” construction ends without bus stops being planned or constructed.  Sidewalks and curbing was set in concrete without pouring the slabs for benches and shelters.  Now, the increased cost to taxpayers of retrofitting them over including them in original construction becomes an obstacle to getting them built.

Our new roads carry so much high speed traffic that crossing them to get to a bus stop is sometimes fatal.  Destroying miles of median trees on I26 and replacing them with an ugly cable fence system at a cost of five million dollars is a priority.  A functional transit hub for our region languishes in planning for 16 years and stands, ironically, as a parking lot for cars beside a detention pond in N. Charleston.

This is changing.  30 million people in the US ride buses, ferries, trains and other forms of transit.  That number grew 6% in 2012 while the number of people driving, miles driven and the number of cars on the road has been falling for several years.  Fewer Americans want to drive.  Only about half of the people in the country can.   In fact. many Americans never wanted to live in our autocentric society and it took a well funded effort by oil, tire and auto companies to destroy public transit in the US in the 1950s and force transit riders into cars.  Living while being isolated and impoverished by the automobile isn’t natural or normal for all Americans.  Read Our Shared Journey.  Watch this short video Americans are Driving Less.

Leafleting Dorchster Express Bus Riders

Organizers from Americans for Transit and the ATU leafleted the riders going on the Dorchester Express bus in Summerville, April 17, 2013, 6 am

It’s OK if people want to drive.  Our country and communities should be based on freedom and choice.  However, the reality in the Lowcountry is that many people are forced to.  For the disabled, the elderly, young people, those with legal problems, parents who don’t want to put their teenagers into a car as the price of extracirricular learning  and people who can’t afford to own, insure and operate a car the “feedom of the road” is a cruel illusion.

Want to Drive Everywhere? OK.

For Auto Drivers, this single minded approach to community mobility is headed to gridlock in the Lowcountry.  Many areas have no more room for road expansion such as Downtown, old West Ashley, parts of N. Charleston and most of Mount Pleasant.  Even if you add lanes to major roads, feeder roads and city streets are at capacity, bound on all sides by fully developed land and water.  Our major destination areas have maxed out parking development.  Downtown, if you tore down buildings and constructed more garages, the streets couldn’t move the cars in and out of them.

More roads on the suburban fringe exacerbate congestion in the urban core.  We have a rapidly growing population of Senior Citizens who need to move, but don’t want to spend sixty dollars to go downtown.  There are over 100 thousand more people coming.  We all can’t possibly continue to drive everywhere.  Spreading out further makes it worse.

By forcing nearly everyone to spend seven thousand after tax dollars a year (on average) to operate an automobile, we’re less competitive as a region where the cost of living is high and wages remain low.  Conservative people at the Chamber of Commerce have known this for over five years.  Unlike Omaha, Nebraska, we can’t just grade dirt and roll out pavement.  The water we love surrounds us.  The Ravenel Bridge and the surrounding infrastructure to support it, cost over a Billion Dollars.  The full cost of the controversial last segment of 526 to James and Johns Island isn’t even known.

Every private automobile on the road is subsidized by the Government in the amount of at least five thousand dollars per year which includes design and engineering, road construction, drainage infrastructure, police response, Fire Department and EMS Response to collisions, insurance, maintenance, and lighting. Direct to driver subsidies include business vehicle tax deductions, deductions for interst on home mortgage debt used to buy cars, costs of the cash for clunkers program, the auto industry bailout and tax credits for hybrid & Electric vehicles. Gas taxes haven’t covered these costs for years.  If we taxed gas to cover our defense costs in the Middle East to protect the world petroleum supply, gasoline would cost well over $10 per gallon at the pump.  Instead those costs are added to the national debt.

We can continue to shoehorn in turn lanes or we can start asking what is possible.  This is the trip from the Airport to Vancouver, BC, functionally equivalent to traveling from our Airport to Mount Pleasant’s Ravenel Gateway District.  Cool, yes, but we’re going to be on the bus for a very long time before anything like that can be done here.

Down in Beaufort, SC, an inadequate transit system shuttles people to work in resorts, while thousands of elderly residents worry about losing their driver’s licenses and being forced into assisted living, frustrated tourists clog roads and students forego extracurricular activities, sports and tutoring because they have no ride home.

Every election and every interaction with an elected official is an opportunity reshape what people know and do to provide mobility to all law abiding citizens (and those our society wants to rehabilitate).  Hungryneck Straphangers, working in cooperation with elements of the SC Progressive Network, National Americans for Transit and the Amalgamated Transit Union (Bus Drivers) will inform and empower transit rider voting in the SC1 Special Congressional Election which ends on May 7th.  This effort extends and develops a project started in fall 2012, which included a major victory for public transit in Columbia, SC which we supported.

What Straphangers is Doing

Since January 2013 we’ve been taking information about the transit system and our issue questions to every candidate running for Congress.  We’ve held four guided transit rides.  7 candidates got on board with transit for an hour, including 5 Republicans, seeing the system from the inside.

Tim Larkin on CARTA 40 Mount Pleasant Bus talking to riders

Congressional Candidate Tim Larkin (R) talking to voters on the Mount Pleasant 40 CARTA Bus March 13, 2011.  Five Republican candidates rode the bus prior to the primary: Turner, Larkin, Moffly, Hoffman & Bryant.

We hand delivered detailed briefing books on the Intermodal center and transit funding to the three surviving campaigns on Marchy 23, 2013.  We’ve directed the candidates to members of both Political Parties who have years of hands on experience working on local transit as members of the Bipartisan CARTA Board and the non Partisan BCD Council of Governments Transit Project for advice.  We have three substantive questions we want the candidates to answer.

  1. Have you ridden CARTA or Tri County Link Public Transit in the Lowcountry recently?  We’ll note if this has been a guided ride with a person familiar with transit issues or a self reported claim which we can’t verify.
  2. Join us in leafleting the crowd before the outdoor movie on Marion Square Friday evening.  The effort starts at 6 pm, the film is Life of PI and you’re welcome to stay and enjoy the move after.  Bring a folding chair as the ground is likely to be wet.
  3. As a congressman would you be willing to work to obtain Federal support to complete planning and construction of the Passenger Intermodal Transportation Center in N. Charleston which will combine a new Amtrak Train Station, Greyhound Station, Airport Shuttle, CARTA route hub and car rental services as well as offices and service businesses.  We’ve put together an Intermodal  information packet for the campaigns. Details on this Public/Private partnership project are available from CARTA.
  4. As a congressman, would you support returning public transit’s share of the Federal Transportation Budget to 20% or more from it’s current reduced share of 18%?  For background on this issue see Stranded at the Station, a natinal report on public transit funding issues.

Elizabeth Colbert Busch rode the bus and answered our transit questions.  Mark Sanford did not.  You can read their responses and related background information on our printable flyer, “We Ride Together, We Vote Together” Now.

How We’re Going to Do It

The week of April 15 to 20th. we’ll go out to transit riders in the Charleston area and Beaufort with their answers to these questions on ten thousand voter information flyers (PDF).  We’ll wind up the major effort with an information booth at the Earth Day Celebration in N. Charleston on April 20th.  After that, we’ll continue to inform transit riding voters and assist them in getting to the polls through election day, May 7.  See our Hungryneck Straphangers Calendar for detailed, day by day plans from now until Election Day.  Our schedule included a Thursday focused on Dorchester and Berkeley Counties and a Friday Battle for Buses in Beaufort effort.

Hopefully whoever we elect will be better informed about transit and we’ll have left the era of public officials who inaccurately believe the buses are empty, only poor people ride and they’re only used for people to pick up government checks.  Governance should be based on reality.  65% of the trips made on CARTA are to and from work.  Almost all of the rest are tourists on DASH, students going to school or college, people going to medical appointments and shopping for basic needs.  TANF payments have been made using mailed debit cards for over a decade.

Boeing Bus Stop

Hopelessly inadequate Express Bus stop for Boeing employees.  Boeing has asked for tens of millions of taxpayer dollars in new road construction to relieve traffic congestion, but no one has made a sincere effort to make transit work at Boeing with a $500 concrete slab and a bench.  Some employees do use this stop according to the driver.

Of course there are other, important questions about a rail system connecting Summerville and Charleston, pedestrian safe highway and stop standards, national transportation issues and better transit to support Senior Citizens and service workers in the Beufort area.  We can’t answer all those questions today, but we plan to be sure they’re asked and thought about.  After the election, we’ll return to our work making sure they’re acted on.

Like every transit trip, we have to make it together, keep it on schedule and know when to pull the stop cord.  Join our ride to the polls.  Please don’t miss this trip.  Ask your family, friends and coworkers to come along so we can all get somewhere together.

Please Comment

If you have thoughts, we finally got the comments to our pages working properly so use them below.   We would welcome something other than spam about discount Viagra to review.  If it’s relevant, even it if is hostile, we’ll post it.  If it’s about discount Viagra, we’ll block it.  We ride transit. We walk long distances to the bus stop.  We’re in good shape.   We don’t need Viagra.  Don’t you notice the people in all those ED advertisements are driving cars?