By Jack Little, Executive Director
East Cooper Community Outreach (ECCO)
As published in The Moultrie News
I exceeded the mileage recommended between oil changes for my car last week. I always take it to Tom Carlson and his reliable staff at Precision Tune at the corner of Hwy. 17 and Venning Road. Their location is convenient to ECCO. Tom does great work. When Tom works on my car I drop my car off each time. I ask someone to pick me up and take me back to the office. Then later in the day, I politely, feeling like I’m imposing, ask if they would take me back to pick it up.
This time I had a different idea. I would use CARTA for my rides.
The Wheels on the Bus in Cayce
When I was growing up in Cayce, before I could drive, I rode the city bus. My best friend, Phil, and I would walk about a mile to the closest 7-11 and catch the bus and ride into Columbia to the movies every few weeks. After the flick, we would get something to eat and feed the squirrels peanuts at the State House grounds. We returned by the same transit on which we came and then walked back home. I remember those days of independence and adventure as being fun and exciting (especially the time when Phil tried to catch a squirrel and it ended up catching him and not letting go!) Those are great memories.
When I left my car to have it serviced in Precision tune last week, I walked to the bus stop. Even though it was 43 degrees and rainy, I saw it as an adventure and a way to go green. I enjoyed the adventure and discovered CARTA is a very efficient way of getting up and down Hwy. 17.
I never realized how easy it was to meet my schedule and even help the environment. I only had to judge my time for leaving the office to catch my ride, which really wasn’t hard to do. I also realized that CARTA runs if I ride it or not, plus I don’t have to worry about driving and parking. It was a good experience and opportunity to utilize an important resource at the tip of my fingers. I was thankful I could walk a block and make the connection to get to my destination. I realized I could have gone downtown without the hassle or parking, West of the Ashley or to North Charleston.
Changing the System
In January, the CARTA board voted to end East Cooper’s inefficient, over extended Flex Bus service this Spring and study options for a new fixed route. The popular CARTA Express bus service from the Super Walmart on North 17 and Kmart to downtown will continue unchanged.
A plan has been proposed to extend Mount Pleasant’s other bus route to downtown, the 40, which I rode to work, all the way to the new Hospital and Wando High School, allowing hundreds of students to stay after school for activities, sports and tutoring. A second bus route would round out the system, running along Coleman Blvd., Bowman Rd., Mathis Ferry, Whipple Road, Long Point, Six Mile, Rifle Range and along Hungry Neck back to Bowman. In warm weather this bus would also run to the front beach on Isle of Palms. A small part time flex bus system would serve the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island.
This plan preserves most of the vital Tel-A-Ride service for the disabled and handicapped, which is available in and near places the regular buses run.
To save these vital services, ridership in the East Cooper area needs to increase by 541 passengers per week. A meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 10 at the Darby Building, 302 Pitt Street at 7 pm. Representatives from neighborhoods, schools, businesses, churches and other organizations are encourage to attend and voice their support in increasing ridership. Details and maps are through the East Cooper CARTA Riders group on Facebook.
How We Can Help
I realize I can help those who are dependent on CARTA’s FLEX service by taking the bus on errands and short trips to nearby vendors and constituents. If our community joins in the effort, less than one percent of Mt. Pleasant’s residents would take the bus once a week. Imagine if we all who live and work within the Hwy. 17, Johnnie Dodds Blvd, and Coleman Blvd. rode CARTA once a week, the difference and benefit we would bring to our neighbors who are dependent on this essential service for their existence.
Read about Jack Little and ECCO winning the Score Award
This article appeared in the Moultrie News at the beginning of the Feb. 2011 East Cooper CARTA Riders planning and outreach effort. ECCO worked with us through the entire process and plans to be actively involved with the system rollout, focusing on transit use training and advocacy for the disabled and economically challenged. Their center, which includes training classrooms, a free store, food pantry, free medical and free dental is located on both the new #401 and improved #40 routes, adjacent to Goodwill.