The May 28 meeting of Asheville City Council included the only public comment for this year’s fiscal budget. Major themes in the hour and 16 minutes of comment were: requests for $15-an-hour wages for city staff, including comments from firefighters; demand for funding of the Urban Forest Master Plan; and 19 speakers who requested full funding for the Transit Master Plan, with an additional 157 participants offering time, signatures and personal stories via postcards.
Before the hearing, newly appointed City Manager Debra Campbell stated in her manager report, “It would give me no greater pleasure than to be able to fund the first-year implementation from the Transit Master Plan; however, there is a significant issue of the amount of revenue that we have, the additional needs that we have in the community, and then lastly the challenges of implementing for the full year … just having enough buses.”
Transit is more than a pleasure; it is a necessity, and Transit Can’t Wait.
Riders, drivers and allies have advocated for 10 p.m. service for a decade through Just Economics and the 19-Point People’s Agenda for Transportation Reform. Our system is failing riders who rely on it, so we need our local leadership to step in where they previously haven’t. A total of seven buses have been ordered to arrive this year, addressing capacity, so operational funds are the last remaining barrier.
Transit is a central part of meeting our 100% renewable energy goals and carbon neutrality by 2030, while providing equitable access and economic mobility. How our Council and Board of Commissioners vote in this cycle must signal massive shifts in priorities because our budgets fund policies reflective of our community values and stated goals.
Because you care about these matters, Better Buses Together and allies invite you to participate in action:
• Contact the Buncombe County commissioners and ask them to collaborate on paratransit, which accounts for half of evening service hour funding. A strong core service in the center city this year is how we urgently expand to regional transportation effectively.
• Contact our City Council to fully fund their own priorities in an effort to enable our new city manager and transit staff to start negotiations. Council cannot claim to be transit advocates while leaving evening service behind. We must include all routes to 10 p.m. and Sunday and holiday service to 8 p.m.
The time is now for collaborative prioritization. Transit Can’t Wait.
— Vicki Meath, Julia McDowell, Amy Cantrell, Diane Allen, Kim Roney, Sabrina Rembert, Matilda Bliss, Amber LaShae Banks and Carmen Ybarra
All of Better Buses Together
Asheville and Buncombe County