Letter: Local government should better fund public transit

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Graphic by Lori Deaton

Thank you for your recent article on the history of Asheville’s public transit system and present-day efforts to improve it [“There and Back Again: Future Transit Efforts, Concerns Mirror Asheville’s Past,” Feb. 28, Xpress]. At MountainTrue, the oldest grassroots environmental nonprofit in Western North Carolina, we appreciate your attention to the role public transit plays in reducing Asheville’s racial and economic inequality and improving environmental sustainability, as well as our ability to support a growing number of residents, commuters and visitors in our city.

We’d like to encourage readers interested in taking the next step to support the Asheville Regional Transit Coalition. As part of this coalition, MountainTrue works closely with other local stakeholders, including Just Economics, Children First/Communities in Schools and AARP to promote the needs of bus riders who depend on Asheville’s transit system. We are calling for local government to ambitiously fund public transit in order to make our system run on time, all day and more often. Readers can sign on to support our vision at www.transit4all.com, and email Transit4all@gmail.com to join our work.

We also hope readers will come out this year for Strive Not to Drive, a monthlong series of events promoting walking, biking, busing or carpooling to work — any form of transportation that avoids a single person riding in a car for their commute — in Asheville and surrounding counties. Asheville’s Strive week will happen May 11-18, and a schedule for this year’s Strive activities will be posted soon at www.strivenottodrive.org.

— Eliza Stokes
Advocacy and communications associate
MountainTrue
Asheville

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30 thoughts on “Letter: Local government should better fund public transit

  1. Lulz

    LOL coming from a non-profit that pays no taxes , why should anyone listen to you? You people expect others to fork over more money for lunacy. How about you change your tax status and actually PAY YOUR FAIR SHARE for once?

    The original transit system in the city was funded by private entities. Maybe we should look at that instead because government ran failures are getting stale. And government cronies who advocate for wasted money from people who are having a hard enough time as it is shouldn’t be taken seriously.

    • Jay reese

      Are you kidding? The automobile and its infrastructure has been heavily subsidized since the beginning. The government has rammed roads down our throats destroying neighborhoods and the environment. The time as come for drivers to pay their way

      • Lulz

        LOL they have been. But your blind ideology doesn’t realize that taking from one pile, i.e. gas taxes, car property taxes, registration fees, and all the other crap, and using it for things that have absolutely nothing to do with transit is a disaster.

        Again, the first mass transit in the city was PRIVATELY funded. And disappeared due to SUBSIDIZED buses paid for by who? Oh that’s right, the incompetent entity ran by buffoons called the government.

        • Jay Reese

          ” In 1990 Congress approved an increase in the gas tax but allotted only half of the new revenue to building projects. The other half was dedicated to deficit reduction – which then, as now, was all the rage. In 1993 Congress approved another gas tax hike and again devoted some of the revenue to deficit reduction. In 1997 Congress redirected all gas tax revenues to the Highway Trust Fund, and the levy returned to its former role as a user fee.”

        • Max Hunt

          Hi Lulz,

          I wanted to clarify your second assertion in your comment above, as it was not addressed fully in my article on the subject: “the first mass transit in the city was PRIVATELY funded. And disappeared due to SUBSIDIZED buses paid for by who? Oh that’s right, the incompetent entity ran by buffoons called the government.”

          That was not the case, exactly. The electric streetcar system was indeed privately funded until its demise in 1934. However, the bus system that replaced it was also privately funded initially. In fact, the Carolina Power & Light Company (who operated the Trolley system in its later years, and was a subsidiary of GE) also operated the bus system privately until the 1942. CP&L then sold the bus system to another private company, White Transportation Company, which operated it until 1967, when the Asheville Transit Authority took it over due to financial difficulties.

          At least in this case, the city assumed public control over the system from private entities to keep it from going under.

          • luther blissett

            Transit shouldn’t be expected to run at a profit. The value accrues elsewhere in a city or region’s economy.

  2. Jay Reese

    Hoping readers will participate in Strive Not to Drive, by walking, biking, busing or carpooling to work — any form of transportation that avoids a single person riding in a car for their commute is the key. If the people who live near the existing bus line would utilize the bus filling it to capacity the government would be forced to expand the system. As it currently stands there are many empty seats on the busses. Sometimes I am the only passenger on the S6. That’s ridiculous considering the traffic issues drivers face every day but are too ignorant to realize they are part of the problem. Drivers forget they are not stuck in traffic, they are traffic. Driving is a habit that can be changed with a some effort. First of all people need to accept the fact their selfish desire to drive alone every where is not sustainable and is a burden on society. Urban environments work better with active transit systems like the bus, bike or ride share. There is not enough space for everyone to be riding around by themselves polluting the air, terrorizing pedestrians and taking up valuable space when parked. The car culture has reigned supreme for a hundred years or so but it’s grip on our society is waning in light of the realization it as become a burden on our communities. Fortunately our city has embraced this change and have written a long term plan to reduce the need for single occupancy vehicles. Obviously funding is the key to success and since the Federal Government has kicked the can to the states hopefully NC will raise the gas tax and other fees on drivers to help fund this transition. The quickest way to get people out of their cars and into mass transit is to start charging drivers the true cost of their driving. $10 per gallon gas, computerized congestion pricing systems, red light and speed cameras to enforce the law and to collect revenue are all effective ways of encouraging people to break the deadly habit of driving.

    • Sam

      Hey friend, evil car-driver here. Maybe I would consider taking Asheville’s bus system if I didn’t see buses broken down on the side of the road on a weekly basis. Also, I happen to live on one end of the county and work on the other. I would I have to wake up ridiculously early to catch multiple buses to get to work. Sorry, but until mass transit is more efficient around these parts (good luck) I’m going to continue driving my 14 year old 4 cylinder around these hills til she dies. Just like some don’t have a choice but to ride the bus, others don’t have a choice but to drive. (How about parents with multiple kids who go to multiple schools?) Not everyone has the same lifestyle. Not everyone can benefit from public transportation. It’s a nice idea though.

      • luther blissett

        “How about parents with multiple kids who go to multiple schools?”

        Weird how people overlook school buses managing to pick up kids from all parts of the county. It’s the public transit network that Americans forget they have.

        • Lulz

          Attribute that to social conditioning that portends of some boogeyman is always around the corner waiting to kidnap junior.

          I too find it ridiculous to see the amount of cars waiting in line to pick up their kids. I always took the bus and back then don’t ever recall cars waiting for their kids in front of the school.

          • Jay Reese

            My son attends TC and walks to school through all the mess created by these parents who drop their kids off. It’s frustrating to witness how some of these drivers act. Everyone is in a hurry and are willing to run the red lights, block the intersections and disregard the students in the crosswalk. I have reported this to the school and to the police and have been told traffic enforcement is a low priority.

        • Jay Reese

          It would be good if we kept those busses on the road after delivering the kids instead of parking them. These busses could be used in the city transit system.

          • luther blissett

            That’s kind of my point. It’s difficult to argue that government can’t run a transit system that extends across the county and up the back roads when you see it every weekday morning and afternoon.

            Yes, it works at that scale because schools are centralized pickup / drop-off points and operate on fixed schedules. But it’s still an impressive logistics operation that gets taken for granted. Are there ways that the school bus system could be integrated with the city and (limited) county systems for adult riders?

        • Sam

          Not all kids live in the same school zone of the school they attend. There are myriad reasons why a parent would need to drive their kids to school. Sheesh y’all, try looking at this from someone’s perspective other than your own please.

      • Jay Reese

        Well obviously if you chose to live far from where you work then you will need to drive. That’s fine but as I stated you should be charged the actual cost of your choice. Yea the busses are old and breakdown on occasion but ART is slated to get a few new busses and is continuing to improve the system. The system could get better a lot quicker if the Federal and State Governments would allocate more funding which as I stated could be raised by increasing automobile user fees. More people could benefit if we had a more balanced transportation system that wasn’t just about building roads for cars.

      • Eliza Stokes

        Hi Sam, thanks for your comment. I completely agree with you that as it stands, the buses in Asheville are an impractical choice. That’s the reason we’re pushing for a 21st century public transit system – the whole purpose of better funding for public transit would be to make buses run on time, all day, and more frequently so that people like you could actually consider them as an option for getting to work.

        I’d also be the last person to say you’re evil for driving a car, but I think we can probably agree that in a city like Asheville, which continues to gain more visitors and residents and which over 40,000 people drive into for work every day, we’ll realistically have to think beyond car-based transportation for this to be a place we want to live in 20 or 30 years from now.

        I’d love to continue this conversation – feel free to shoot me an email if you’d like.

        Thanks,

        Eliza

  3. Enlightened Enigma

    sprawling landscape and lack of density prohibits more public transit … bigger more compact cities with career opportunities offer better transportation … encourage others to move to those places to find what they need …

    • Lulz

      LOL they have. And in their place have come hoteliers who bring in even more traffic. People born here rarely stay which is unfortunate. Because they would actually have done things a whole lot different than literally create a city of drunk tourist.

      • Jay Reese

        What is it with this myth about being a local? What is a local and when is the cut off date? I came in 98′, am I a local?

    • Jay Reese

      Yes transit oriented design that links work centers with housing. Many cities have done it so it shouldn’t be that hard to replicate.

  4. Bright

    Nobody in these comments actively rides the bus. Unfortunately I do, and have done for 4 years! Proud? Nope…embarrassed at my financial situation that makes me need to use this mode of transportation. Tell you what though, the bus stops are better in areas that get more “views.” Gotta impress those tourists! At most of the other stops riders get to wait in a dirt pile of trash with no protection from the lovely weather. Disgusting misuse of tax money, and an even more disgusting use of intellect. Ride the things for a week straight, and then comment here. Love to see it.

    • Lulz

      That’s the point. Misused funds is common with government involvement. After all if they need more money they just pass tax increases on whims. Wanda Green sapped how many HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS and no one flinched.

    • Jay Reese

      I do not own a car and rely on my bicycle and the bus system to get me to where I am going . I agree with you the many of the stops are littered with trash and cigarettes ,which is something that can be rectified. The system gets better every year and more shelters will be built. You should voice your concerns to ART they are very receptive to criticism in that I got a free months pass for problems I was experiencing. You should be proud you don’t drive a car and use public transit. It’s better for you and our community given the negative effects of automobile usage. Building wider roads to accommodate more cars is a waste of taxpayer money since we already know the disastrous effects of that 100 year policy

      • Bright

        Re two comments above. I know how sensitive ART is to suggestions…I have been helped numerous times by them, and given their sympathies when they “just don’t have the funds.” They are great people. However, it seems that their hands are tied by the City’s misuse of tax money by trying to impress tourists. Perhaps the perps should catch a bus on the least comfortable route…stand in the mud, in the rain, with no hut for protection…for a solid week! Betcha the funds would somehow materialize. Stupidity has no limits.

        • Jay Reese

          The money spent on attracting tourist does not effect the funding for ART. Tourism jobs make up 1 in 10 jobs around the world and is a very important segment of the economy. Do you ever visit other areas? If so that makes you a tourist. Shelters would be nice but until then do what I did and buy a rain suit. Its relatively cheap and effective. Remember there is no bad weather just bad clothing and exposure to the elements makes you healthier. I do agree with your assertion many of those working on improving transit probably drive to work and meetings

          • Bright

            You ride the bus regularly? I bet not. Try it in the rain with your raincoat and booties, etc., etc., and then call yourself able to give cogent suggestions to those who do.

        • Jay Reese

          Why would you assume I am lying. I have spent hundreds of dollars on rain and cold weather gear so I am comfortable riding the bus or my bicycle to work. I suggest you do the same

  5. Tsalagi Sister

    Keep arguing for a few more decades while disabled, elderly and poor folks stay isolated.
    Not surprised at the bus above. Have heard it all my life.
    NIMBY idiots.first they steal our land then they steal everything else.

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