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.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Missing Bench or New Shelter?

I posted this picture on facebook with the caption, "Who stole my bench?!" one day last week when I arrived at the bus stop in front of northwoods mall to find the bench had vanished. There were a bunch of little multi-colored flags and as line markers stuck in the grass surrounding the area, leading me to believe there was going to be some kind of roadwork about to take place. But couldn't they have just moved the bench to another spot?!

A few days later I arrived to find concrete had been poured where the bench had been, along with a walkway from the sidewalk to the street. Hmmm....does this mean the stop at Northwoods Mall is getting one of the coveted bus shelters that I've heard about? I guess we'll have to wait and see!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Meet Michelle...

I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle Emerson, CARTA's marketing coordinator at Charleston's Greenfair. It was obvious as we spoke that for Michelle public transportation isn't just a job, it's a passion.  Michelle takes advantage of the bus herself whenever possible and has taught her kids to ride as well. Michelle pointed out everyone needs to be prepared for any eventuality, they may find themselves carless or going to college or work someplace like Chicago or NYC, where utilizing public transportation is the norm. Knowing how to take advantage of public transportation if necessary is actually a life skill that encourages  independence and confidence to allow one to live and travel anywhere. I know I myself never considered the bigger picture when it came to teaching my kids about public transportation. Food for thought if you have children at home!

I enjoyed talking with Michelle and hearing her ideas about public transportation as well as some of her marketing concepts to make people more aware of CARTA's services. Michelle is a true ambassador for CARTA and public transportation in general!

Friday, October 15, 2010

More Changes...

The driver on bus 12 was kind enough to let me know she had the new schedules available, which was handy since the schedules are changing as of Sunday, 10/17. Bus 10 will be running every 20 minutes on weekdays from 7am-7pm, not every 15 minutes as was originally stated by CARTA. Weekends bus 10 runs every hour or so. Bus 12 will still run every 45 minutes though some of the pickup times have changed. Not sure that matters much as bus 12 has consistently been running 10-20 minutes late in the mornings since school started. On Sunday 12 will still run every 2 hours, not every 4 hours as another passenger told me recently. Bus 106 which ran through Otranta and Hanahan, up to Stall Road and Trident One Stop is being cancelled, leaving Otranto and Hanahan passengers without any bus service at all. Sunday service is being eliminated for route 104 which serves Park Circle, leaving passengers in that area with no transportation on Sundays. Bus 13 which is the Remount Road bus is also eliminating Sunday Service. These are just some changes of note on my side of North Charleston. Many routes are starting later and/or ending earlier and all CARTA's night buses have been cancelled. For a summary of all the changes go to CARTA's website. I'm very lucky that the changes won't have a major effect on my usual routine. Sadly, the only positive change being made was to increase the buses for Route 10 on Rivers Avenue.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I'm a Winner!

At the Charleston Greenfair last Saturday Biketown gave away 30 free bikes to Bicycling Magazine's Biketown essay contest winners, including me! I'm now the proud owner of a silver and white Jamis Commuter 2. A helmet, lock and a lightset were included in the prize pack. In addition to Metlife, the Regional Council of Governments and Coastal Cyclists contributed to the prizes (the lightsets and locks). According to Biketown representatives this is the first time they've had local groups ask to be involved. That's the kind of thing that makes Charleston a great place to live!

All it took was a ten-minute, off-the-cuff 50 word essay on how having a bike will improve my life by expanding my horizons, and making simple things like trips to the local library and grocery store faster and easier. I really didn't expect to win, from what I understand they received hundreds of essays. So I was thrilled when I received my email from Lois Moss. I jumped on a bus headed downtown right after church on Sunday, praying the rain would hold off. Despite ominous skies and some rumbles of thunder it did - until I was getting ready for my first biking adventure, getting the bike home via CARTA. A very nice young man got of the bus in the rain both to help me load and then unload my bike from the rack. It wasn't complicated and there are clear instructions, but it was kind of this gentleman to help me out.

Due to the monsoon like weather I had to wait impatiently for a rain-free night before I could jump on my new bike and take a spin around the apartment complex after work. It's been many years since I've been on a bike, and there are of course no bike lanes in my neighborhood. It doesn't look like it's in the plans for the road widening project currently in progress either. After a couple of night rides around the complex I braved St Ives road. Then on Saturday we had clear skies and cool temps, and I was off on my bike! First stop Northwoods Park, then up to AC Corcoran Elementary School, down Otranto Road to the library, and Kmart to check out their bike accessories (I have started a wish list) and over to Texas Roadhouse for a late lunch. Then back home again. I haven't tracked it yet, but it should be about a four mile loop. So Carfree Charleston will now include posts about another aspect of living carfree. In addition to public transportation, I'll be posting about the perks and challenges of getting around North Charleston by bike.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Carta's new fare schedule kicked in today, though it seemed that the majority of riders were clueless. About half the buses I've been riding the last few weeks had flyers and/or signs posted. Kudos to CARTA for making the flyers bigger and more eye-catching than the surveys and notices about the public hearings. It is quite disappointing however that CARTA decided to both make service cuts and raise the rates. While I'm lucky enough that my routine isn't going to suffer much, I feel for those people who will now literally be stranded by the loss of bus 106, CARTA @ Night and some of the Sunday services. Rumor has it that the Teleride services are next on the chopping block. So far the only positive in the whole situation is the addition of runs to route 10, which will now be running every 15 minutes on Rivers Avenue from 7am-7pm.

I was quite surprised when a passenger said he was told by a driver that the route cuts were due to the fact  nobody showed up at the public hearings. Really?! I'm not a nobody, and neither are the twenty plus people who showed up at the meeting I attended. Yes, it was a drop in the bucket compared to the number of riders CARTA has. My recommendation if CARTA really wants to hear what their ridership has to say, is to have public hearings where and when more of the passengers can attend. Like the Superstops on Cosgrove, Meeting and Mary, Super K-Mart and the Citadel Mall during prime hours.