OccupyCharleston (SC) should make a safe, accessible and reliable public transit system part of its larger agenda for a more just and economically inclusive society.
The American dependence on the Automobile for the past sixty years has imposed an uneven burden on our society. While the autocentric “car culture” of the 1960s created unprecedented wealth and made Detroit one of the wealthiest cities on Earth it was based on an unsustainable set of circumstances: our nation’s unique industrial superiority following WWII which allowed us to operate without competition around the world, cheap and abundant domestic oil reserves in a global market we controlled and ample land and resources to expand a transportation system which had not reached the geometric limits of efficiency. Cars were American made, cheap, profitable. Gas was cheap. The amount of travel needed was within reasonable limits. It was a world most of you never saw, not made to last.
Starting with the spike on petroleum prices in 1973 due to the Arab Oil embargo, the subsequent decline of an Auto industry unprepared to produce globally competitive vehicles and a suburban driving budget which has doubled since the 1970s, the car is now a tremendous burden on most Americans. However since we’ve build an entire landscape around it, it’s a necessity for most people. Highway construction commands a higher priority than transit. For an ordinary SC family, this is an annual cost per vehicle of over five thousand dollars in after tax income. Many families are one major breakdown away from losing use of their aging cars. For the disabled, the poor, elderly and those legally prohibited from driving most of the American landscape and employment is almost inaccessible. In SC, it has been estimated that as many as 20% of the cars on our roads are un or under insured. Many people drive without a license. Driving and traffic have become an oppressive, alienating, and corrosive cultural element.
In Charleston CARTA has struggled to find funding and endured a years long shut down which left it burdened with a five million dollar debt which must be paid down by limiting service. Many areas lack sheltered stops, sidewalks and roads designed to operate safely. Despite this, over four million rides were taken on CARTA last year and ridership is up 10%. Trident Links, which provides service to rural areas is also actively used.
We’re lucky to have the transit services we have. Most of South Carolina’s communities have nothing. However our governments are poised to spend the last funds available for public infrastructure on huge road projects. A needed commuter rail system to Summerville is planned, but unfunded. A central bus and rail station for the region in N. Charleston is not supported by some federal elected officials. Large areas leave riders standing in the cold rain, exposed to high speed traffic to wait for buses. CARTA is forced to cut routes and juggle money to continue operating.
Consider planning to use transit as part of the #OccupyCharleston effort. Do outreach to transit riders. Support transferring a tiny portion of what we’re spending on highways to sidewalks, bus stops and bus pull offs for stops.
Transit is a journey we make together. I hope #occupycharleston will get on board
William Hamilton, Coordiantor, East Cooper CARTA Riders
This will be distributed at tonight's #occupycharleston GA meeting. A full list of www.eastccrider.com 's activities for October 2011 can be found at October ECCR Activities