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.