Sunday, October 24, 2010

Meeting: NAACP on CARTA?

I have not been able to confirm this officially, but word on the bus is that the NAACP is holding a community meeting to rally passengers regarding CARTA's recent service cuts. I was told the meeting will be held at the Morris Brown AME Church at 13 Morris St in Charleston, October 28th at 7pm. I could not verify the information via either the church's or the NAACP website. Unfortunately I can't get time off from work to attend the meeting myself. I think it's a case of closing the barn door after the horses have escaped, but will be interested to see what comes of it. Part of the uproar has to do with the announcement that the downtown shuttle buses are going to be offered as a free service, as a selling point for tourists. The woman on the bus who was speaking about this meeting says Mayor Riley told her the City of Charleston was paying for it - hence the uproar. If the City is willing to provide free bus service for tourists, why were they not willing to increase funding for CARTA to provide needed services for locals?

There have been some comments made via the media by CARTA about "sparse attendance" at the public hearings and board meetings.** As has been pointed out repeatedly there was pretty short notice as to these hearings,  they took place when people have to work, and not all were convenient to the bus. I've been able to attend one board meeting and one FRAC meeting myself. Both entailed taking half a day off and 2 hours of travel time by bus to get there and back. At the board meeting (which takes place on Wednesdays at 2pm) I had to sit through almost three hours of CARTA business discussion before it was open for public input, at which point half the board members had already left. The public hearing I attended conveniently took place right next door to my job, so I only had to take two hours of vacation time for that one.

I think the bottom line is that if the passengers want to effect change, we need to spend the next year holding these community meetings, bombarding CARTA with emails and phone calls, and be prepared to attend board meetings etc as the next fiscal year and budget review approaches for 2012. Meanwhile CARTA needs to make these meeting more convenient and accessible to the passengers they serve.

**interestingly no numbers have been given as to how many surveys were collected. I was told I couldn't find any on my buses because they had all been given out (something the drivers disputed) but got no answer when I asked how many were printed and/or submitted.

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