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Yesterday, after an intense local organizing effort, the CARTA board voted to approve a new bus route system for the East Cooper area.  The effort engaged over 150 people, 300 businesses and about 50 schools, nonprofits and churches.  The goal of generating a plan to add 541 new rides to the new system was exceeded with 884 commitments were obtained.

The body of this post consists of the forward to the final report submitted to the CARTA board and a note on the action they took yesterday.

With the Middle East exploding and the streets of Wisconsin full of protesters, this looks pretty tame, but people need transit and sometimes you have to pick up the mop and do the work.  It's not easy now, but even a modest success, when people need it counts for a lot.

A Welcome Decision to Celebrate

At 2 pm Today, Linda Page presented the full CARTA board with the final report of the 541 effort, including your combined commitments to generate 884 additional rides per week on a new East Cooper Route system.  This was 343 more than the minimum needed.  

  Linda Page just called to inform us that the CARTA board has voted to approve the proposed new routes system for East of the Cooper.  The full plan requested by the East Cooper Board members was approved, which includes 12 months of flex bus service on the Islands, the new neighborhood route and the Extended #40 route.  The existing express service will continue to run as currently scheduled.  Tel-A-Ride services will be retained through nearly the entire East Cooper area.

There was some resistance on the board, but the strength of the community’s efforts, combined with the forceful presence of our board members, helped swing the vote.
The Town of Mt. Pleasant is currently working on plans for 12 additional bus shelters and making sure that the new roads and infrastructure now being constructed in Mt. Pleasant accommodates transit and the needs of people who use it.  How much happens and when will depend on funding.

The current planning cycle calls for the new system to begin running in May, but an effort will be made to accelerate that to April.  Before that happens, the routes have to be checked by running an actual bus over them in real traffic and timing the runs, which has already started.  Schedules and online material have to be updated.  A full community information effort, including executing the items in the plans filed as part of the report, will have to be deployed.

We have effort ahead of us and six months to prove the new system is working.  However, we’ve never had so many people involved.  After the Report was finished, Moultrie Middle School became fully engaged in an effort to empower their students with transit.  People are still joining the effort now.

Thanks to everyone for your effort.  Before we plunge into the work ahead and the rewards which will follow, stop to congratulate each other with the truth than in an exceptionally difficult time, you came forward to work together for a better community.  Your effort worked and it made a difference.  You were a citizen shaping the future.  

I’ll see you on the bus.

Notes on the 541 Report

We have returned a community plan with express commitments from individuals and organizations to work to put 884 additional riders per week on the community route system proposed.  We’re confident that this can translate to the additional riders needed when the routes are running.  Several feedback forms showed a commitment to contribute to the effort, but didn’t list a number.

  Over 130 people have attended one or more meetings during this effort.  Over 300 businesses and civic organizations have had personal contact about transit.  Seven articles about CARTA have appeared in local newspapers. WCIV TV4 did a television report on the final meeting.

It’s important to understand that not all of the schools are represented in these returns, though several others had a lot of very positive input into the program.  They and many corporate controlled businesses had a difficult time processing our request for this commitment through their formal policy generating apparatus, which was constrained by meeting cycles and the need for legal clearance of this sort of statement.  Large amounts of informal input reached us indicating that a lot of students need to use CARTA in the afternoons.  The full potential for this won’t be seen until school starts again in the fall, but demonstrating the reliability of the system this Spring will help us reach our goal for student ridership.

The potential for CARTA bus transportation to the beach also generated a lot of interest.

Many people spoke to us about the importance of sidewalks to reach bus stops and benches and shelters at bus stops.

This short, intense effort took on exceptionally difficult challenges.  Many of the businesses we reached out to were under economic strain.  Many organization’s staffs have been drastically cut.  While this made getting formal feedback difficult, we heard from plenty of people who now recognize transit as a necessity for their business, church, community, school or organization.  Many people preferred to communicate directly to their CARTA board members with their input and may not have remembered thereafter to send in a form.

The need and readiness is clearly out there.  The very conditions which made this effort so exceptionally difficult are the forces which probably indicate its probable success.  The East Cooper area has recognized its need for transit.

I would like to offer my particular thanks to Linda Page and the other East Cooper CARTA Board members who were so involved in this effort.  I know handling the input of a frustrated and needful public is difficult, but the effort of the East Cooper members of the CARTA Board contributed greatly to our success.

William Hamilton
Attorney at Law

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