Stand Up 4 Transportation Day
By Jana E. Pye, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
In cities, towns and communities across the country, people gathered on April 9th to advocate for public transport as part of the Stand Up 4 Transportation Day. The Darlington and Florence County League of Women Voters partnered in support of Pee Dee Regional Transportation Authority (PDRTA) for the need for long-term, sustainable and reliable federal transportation funding bill.
The women held the event at Florence Darlington Technical College, and were joined by both supporters and riders of PDRTA.
Dyan Cohen, member of the Darlington County League of Women Voters and council member of the City of Darlington, welcomed the attendees and shared that as a college student, she rode public transportation.
“PDRTA is a system that is well run,” she said. “Buses are dependable, and safe. There are five video cameras on board each bus. PDTRA is a good steward of the public’s dollar. People are using the bus for everything from work, doctor appointments, school, and a lot more. School is so important for people to access, and that is why we chose to have this event here at Florence Darlington Technical College.”
After the bus service lost vast amounts of federal funding, the City of Darlington stepped up and assisted with funds to support the bus service, despite the lack of support from other municipalities in the Pee Dee.
“We are very proud of our long partnership with the Pee Dee Rapid Transportation Authority,” said Clay Williams, FDTC Director of Public Relations, after the event. “Their buses serve many of our students and are constant sight on our main campus. We even have a bus stop with a roof for the students who catch the bus. We recognize that if it weren’t for the PDRTA, many of our students would not have a way to college.”
The event marked a first for the two League of Women Voters to work together on issues that affect community member in adjoining counties. “We hope others will go out and support our campaign to help PDRTA.” said Frances Elmore, Florence, Treasurer of Florence League of Women Voters. “It is vital to our community and needs to be funded and funded fully. We all need to support it and get behind it. And we are proud to be here with the Darlington County League who initiated this effort along with PDRTA to be supporting of them. They are our sister league, and we are very proud of the work they do.”
Chuck McNeil, Executive Director of PDRTA, shared the following. “I took note of Dyan’s comments that she rode public transit years ago when she went to college, and it reminded me- so did I. In fact, a long time ago when I was earning a college degree- in biology of all things- I not only took the bus, I drove the bus. And that is how I got into this wonderful business. I want to thank the League of Women Voters of Florence and Darlington Counties for organizing this event to call attention to this multi year federal transportation bill today across the United States events like this are being planned, and conducted to call attention for a strong, robust funding.”
He went on the explain the need for the bill:
1. The bill supports not only transit, but highways and roads across the united states. Every state, including South Carolina, is reliant upon those federal dollars to help us build, sustain and maintain our highways and road infrastructure,
2. Public transportation like PDRTA rely on federal funds for over half of the financial resources we need to maintain the service.
3. Highway and transportation systems are needed in every growing community across the U.S. “There is not a thriving city or town anywhere in America without that does not have safe, affordable, effective and efficient public transportation operating-“ said MacNeil. “Public transportation is first and foremost public – it’s for everyone. Everyone who rides a bus is doing so for the same that everyone else has a set of car keys are getting in and out of their cars every day. They are going to work, to further their education …they are going to hospitals, they are going to the doctors office or grocery shopping… hair salon, barber shops, post office, and on and on it goes. Those who go in and out of their cars every day almost always are going to earn money, or to spend money. Well guess what? So are the people getting on and off PDRTA buses. Supporting public transit systems around the united states is not just supporting mobility systems and options, its not just supporting quality of life it’s supporting economic development. It helps stimulate commerce.”
MacNeil shared that despite the dramatic cuts in PDRTA services in recent years, they are experiencing record growth in ridership “More people in the Pee Dee are using less service.”
He urged people to contact Congressman Rice, Scott and Graham to support the federal transportation bill.
James Stubbs of Darlington shared his need for the public bus service.
“I’m a librarian, and I’ve worked with the Florence County Library System for seven years now.” said Stubbs. “I live in Darlington, and I am legally blind. So, I am incapable of operating a vehicle of any sort. This bus is my lifeline in getting back and forth to work, and making a salary I can live off of. Without it, I would have to have to pay between $10 and $15 dollars for a taxi each way back and forth from work. I don’t know about most of you, but I just can’t afford to pay $20 – $30 a day just to get to work so I can learn a living. So please, whatever you do, support the bus. Because there are a lot of people like me that need it.”
Stubbs was a resident of Hartsville, and used to take the Hartsville bus to Darlington to catch the commuter bus to Florence to work.
When the bus service was discontinued in Hartsville, he had to move to Darlington to retain his job in Florence.
“I don’t want to have to move again,” said Stubbs after the event. “This is my livelihood.”
To put into perspective, an average person works approximately 260 work days a year; at $30 per day, that would be $7,800 per year, or $650 a month- roughly the car payment of a Lexus or other luxury vehicle.
Preston Dixon, a PDRTA driver, shared his experiences as a driver for 6 years.
“ What I love about it is the service to the community,” said Dixon. “I watch a lot of ladies with no husbands and no other transportation except the buses. It plays an important part. I watch a lot of elderly folks and I ask them, ‘where are your sons and daughters? The bus is the only transportation they have. It’s a humbling feeling when you drive, knowing you are doing something for the community.”
Other community members from Florence shared their need for the bus service.
A ride along was offered for people to try to the bus free of charge.