Charleston, SC– 12 Demonstrators from the Hungryneck Straphangers collected over 100 petition signatures and talked to over 200 transit riders on Tuesday, May 1st. The demonstration was reported by WCIV TV-4 News, the Post and Courier and the City Paper. The effort continued on May 2 with outreach at Superstop in N. Charleston. Future demonstrations are planned a major transit centers around the County.
CARTA Board Chairman Elliot Summey continued the offical push back, claiming that a 5% cut in service wouldn’t actually be a cut in service, but a consolidation, responding to the protest to the media. He didn’t say which routes would be targeted for elimination or consolidation, decisions likely to be made this summer after consultants issue reports and at a time when public resistance can’t be organized.
More pictures and video.
The fundamental problem is that most decisions about CARTA, including funding, are made by people who drive cars. To them moving lines on a map which represent combining bus routes is an academic exercise which produces the desired cost cuts. If an area goes from having three bus routes to two, it still appears has just as much service. The distances and travel to stop conditions involved aren’t significantly different to someone driving in a warm, dry car at a high rate of speed, safely insulated from the risk of crime. A mile is two minutes of driving for them. However to the rider walking over a mile, in the dark on a cold, rainy night in February down a road with no sidewalk on a muddy shoulder, between wet pavement and speeding cars on one side and an open ditch of dirty cold water on the other, the difference is overwhelming. For such people, every intersection crossing is potentially fatal. Charleston County already has one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the United States. Riders become an easy mark for criminals. The long walks too and from the nearest bus stop in the conditions which prevail here range from unpleasant and degrading to dangerous or fatal.
Many political leaders in Charleston are uninterested in this reality, but even for them the functionality of our transit system is important. Most jobs in Charleston pay less than ten dollars an hour (including the starting wage for our bus drivers). These rates of pay do not meed a cost of living which is now above the national average.. However our medical, F&B, tourism and hospitality sectors depend on such jobs to function, with long hours which often begin early in the morning or end late at night. Affordable housing is often far from work. CARTA is a necessity.
Unless riders, community leaders, employers and their families stand up and remind our leaders what loss of bus service really means to actual people, we can expect round after round of cuts moving towards a skeletal transit system which serves only the truly desperate and tourists on DASH. Unless we demand an adequate system, more powerful interest groups will continue to see that government funding is used for other purposes, including the massive subsidies paid to support the private automobile and air travel. We can’t expect members of CARTA’s own board to stand up for the system and riders unless there is public pressure to stop the cuts and build towards an efficient, basic public transit system for our region. With younger Americans taking 40% more transit trips, our region’s future depends on an adequate transit system.
Our next effort will be to present copies of the petition signatures collected to date to Charleston City Council on May 8. You can sign the petition online.
Join us that evening at 5 pm at Charleston City Hall on Tuesday, May 8. There is a public comment period. Come speak up for transit if you can. After that, we’ll begin to prepare for the next CARTA board meeting. You can find the details on our calendar (use the menu bar link above) and sign up for the Speak to Charleston City Council event on Facebook. Charleston City Hall, at 80 Broad Street is located on the North Beltline, Meeting/King DASH, King Street Citadel and Savannah Highway Bus routes. You can plan your trip using Google Transit.
We’ll post the time, date and location of the next CARTA Board Meeting as soon as it is confirmed. Those needing immediate updates may call William Hamilton at (843) 870-5299 or contact him through our feedback form.