Thursday, May 10, 2018

Forward!- How Best Friends is Going to Push Improvements in Transit for the rest of this year.

Forward!- How Best Friends is Going to Push Improvements in Transit for the rest of this year.

2 days to #ConChaCo

Note- This is the forth of five public statements to be issued by Best Friends of Public Transit, Inc. (501c3) to prepare the community for Saturday’s ConChaCo event, a Charleston City Wide Transit Focused Festival along the #20 Upper King / Meeting Bus line linking the Farmer’s Market, Awakening Motion, The Greek Festival, the ConChaCo Pub Crawl & Restaurant Hop and the Night Market. Full information can be found in this previous media release. The Statements will be titled by our organization’s Motto: Together We Go Forward & ConChaCo and will announce a 6 pm event each day to help create better transit in the Lowcountry. Thursday’s word is “Forward!”

Slipping Backward, Putting the CARTA gearbox into Forward

On election night in November 2016 the staff and volunteers of the Transit Complete the Penny Campaign, many young and full of idealistic energy, believed that once 600 million dollars in funds for public transit were obtained through the half penny sales tax that better transit would be on the way, rapidly and with the full support of CARTA and local governments. We were wrong.

CARTA had answered every demand for improvement with the claim “we have no money.”  It turns out the obstacle to better transit was never cash, but commitment. The Lowcountry has an inadequate public transit system because that serves the interests of both the old plantation legacy aristocracy and the new Comeyas with Cash. Slow, infrequent transit is a tool for controlling a restless and increasingly angry population. 

The people selling off what remains of their inherited wealth to maintain appearances and send their kids to college (from which most will refuse to return to Charleston) and the people showing up to buy trophy houses with their millions don’t want to share the Lowcountry with a working class that has the time and energy to demand a fair share of the money, power and space left before the ocean starts covering the land.

Two days after the election, at a meeting of CARTA Rider’s advisory board, a group of transit riders the authority uses as an occasional sounding board required by federal regulations, CARTA Director Ron Mitchum declared his job was to “control expectations.”  At the next CARTA board meeting a letter painstaking drafted by the younger members of the Tranist Complete the Penny Staff requesting a serious sit down meeting about the future was ignored.

Then they were talking about finishing the Bus Rapid Tranist line to Summerville by 2023. Today, a year and a half later the timeline has slipped backwards two years.

A set of badly needed bus shelters funded years ago with hundreds of thousands of dollars form the state thanks to the efforts of State Senator Marlon Kimpson and City of North Charleston Transit didn’t meet hurricane standards and had to be rejected. We don’t know if that effort was in the order or manufacturer yet. in the Lowcountry isn’t going forward, its in reverse. 

After we exposed serious defects in the Hurricane evacuation system last fall, the same collection of inadequate and inappropriately located signs await the emergency of the coming storms.
We’re facing another summer without transit service to any of our beaches while CARTA Chairman Mike Seekings says “someday.”  That’s no comfort to the parent with a rare day off from their downtown F&B job who would like to take their child to see the ocean at Folly Beach.

We're seeing Some Improvement

New Bus Stop at Mt. Pleasant town hall. 
CARTA and local governments do surrender improvements when the pressure is high enough. The new HOP Bus gives downtown workers a $5 a day place to park and a quick ride to work. The CARTA board  is already talking about cuts to the service if the lot doesn’t fill soon. But our request for pamplets to hand out as part fo our three week promotional effort for ConChaCo, which put 150 staff hours of face to face outreach on the sidewalks of the Lowcountry got about 200 brochures.
Benches appeared along the upper end of the #20 Bus line which is the backbone of Saturday’s ConChaCo festival this week. It’s cast iron progress you can sit on.

Some new buses have been added to CARTA’s fleet, allowing the less reliable ones to be retired to the reserve lot.

We continue to have some great drivers who push CARTA’s aging vehicles through our increasingly congested traffic. They’re getting recognized more often and hopefully their pay will improve. You can make more money pulling containers to and from the port and they don’t try to beg to make the trip for free.

We’ve burned through over half a 20 thousand dollar grant from Tranist Center in the last year and have talked to over 50 thousand people about better transit in the Lowcountry. We make more noise at lower cost per unit of hell raised than any transit advocacy group in the US, in part because I don’t get paid for the 20 hours a week he puts in as Executive Director.  Julia, my sainted wife does get the standard $10 an hour stuff pay for her time and 14 cents a mile for the miserable driving she does. Knight Printing, the Turning Lef Project (where former prisoners rehabilitating themselves trough job and life skills training make our gold T-shirts) and the Mount Pleasant Staples copy center get paid full price.  So does Kelly’s BBQ on our many trips to the north end of the future Bus Rapid Transit line on Highway 78.

What we're going to do to bring better transit to the Lowcountry this year.

Our grant making friends tell us to keep working and they’ll keep sending money. We’re going to find out if their telling the truth by years end.

  1. We’re going to push to bring transit back to Folly Beach throughout the summer, beginning with a community paint of a 5 x 20 foot banner demanding Buses be returned to our Beaches we’ll unfurl where the Folly Boat used to be on Memorial Day.
  2. We’re working to establish our first unit of Guardians of the Line based in Lincolnville to push for faster progress on the Bus Rapid Tranist line. It will cover the section of the line between I26 and the County Line, including the future at the Exchange Park Fairgrounds and Lincolnville at Royle Ave. To prepare for that, we’re going to demand better regular bus service to the end of the line CARTA stops on Highway 78 on the #10 Rivers Ave. line and the miserable bench and shelterless #3 Summerville Express bus stop at Dorchester Village where people have been standing in the rain waiting for buses for the past four years.
  3. We’re going to fight to build on the flawed but important option of park and ride access to downtown Charleston by actively promoting the HOP Bus and fighting any attempts to cut service until it has been operating for one year. We’ll be working with the now organized F&B Workers Community to do that.
  4. We’ll be pushing for better bus service for the East Cooper area, Daniel Island and James Island. We’re going to actively resist another year of County Councils “Pay Go” plan which robbed transit of 11 million dollars in current bus operating funds so it could be used to build roads by asking local municipal governments to reject the proposed CARTA budget as Mount Pleasant did last year.
  5. We’re going to go forward using strategies and approaches we’ve learned from activists in New York, Seattle, Oakand, Houston and Portland, Or through our friends like Ben Ross, Americans for Transit and all those smart, good looking kids who wear smart watches and go to seminars with us in the shining towers of Seattle thanks to our support from Transit Center.
  6. We will continue to begin our staff meetings by pouring a pitcher of sweet tea into the ground, because the polite, patient approach to transit leaves too many discouraged people shivering in the rain for buses which come once an hour or even less often in places like James Island. My yard is a mess anyway, so it doesn’t matter if sweet tea kills the grass.
  7. ConChaCo is Saturday, May 12. We’re asking everyone who can to come downtown, even in your car if you have to. You can park in the HOP lot for $5 all day. Let go of the steering wheel and grab Charleston. Everythigns on the free #20 bus line.  Enjoy the Farmer’s Market, Awakening Motion, The Greek Festival (we’ve got free passes at our #ConChaCo information tent at the Corner of Grove and King next to the food lion and every 48th person to use one get a free Greek dinner from the ladies of Holy Trinity Church), our Pub Crawl, CARTA Kino and the Night Market (free gift baskets for lucky customers. Lets not lose our connection to our historic urban core because cars don’t function well there any longer.
  8. ConChaCo is the celebration that is also a demonstration but instead of making signs with magic markers which say, “Improve Transit” we’re throwing a three mile long party which offers an indea of what a transit enabled Holy City would feel like. Drop by our information center and make your own brightly colored button. My wife Julia will work the button press for you at the lordly compensation of $10 an hour. I’ll be working for free. Most of your staff and volunteers, aged 82 to 8 will be working that day. Sylphide, our Fairy of mobility will wield her staff of energy and present her shield of community throughout the city that day.  You can count on her picking up a PBR at the recovery room later for CARTA Kino. As we point out to the shocked politicians she dresses down about her miserable struggle with the transit system, she’s a fairy, not an angel.

Come ConChaco with us Saturday. Together, we’ll go forward!


Sigute "Siggy" Meilus
Contact William Hamilton at (843) 870-5299 or More information at onlne. We’ll hold a press conference on ConChaCo on Friday, May 11 at the Charleston County Main Library on Calhoun Street at 10 am with Sigute "Siggy" Meilus, national Executive Director of Americans for Transit, who will arrive in Charleston on Thursday afternoon and join Best Friends of Lowcountry Transit on CARTA for the ride into the City.

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