When was the last time you took the bus?

Provided by Proterra

When was the last time you rode the public bus? For many (or most) of us, the answer is likely “I can’t remember.”

Well, what better time than during “Try Transit Month?” An ongoing initiative to educate the community about economic + environmental benefits of public transit. (And, to invite those who rely on cars, to trade in for a day).

First, why should we care? The skinny: The Greenville’s public transit system, is vastly underfunded compared to Columbia and Charleston. (And the rest of the SE.)

The Piedmont Health Foundation says that in 2015, Greenlink received $3.76 per capita in local funds compared to CARTA in Charleston’s $17.79 per capita – that’s about 21% of CHS’s funding. Both transit companies serve their respective counties, not just cities. According to 2016 census info, our County population is 498,766, compared to Charleston county at 396,484. (That means we receive less public local funding, despite having a higher tax base.)

A challenge Greenlink has? Limited routes and hours, but much of that inaccessibility comes from lack of funding, according to the Piedmont Health Foundation. Greenlink’s 2017 study found that of 1,459 Greenville county members surveyed, only 36% ride Greenlink. The three main issues for non-riders: buses don’t operate where they live/want to go, don’t compete with a car, or don’t operate at necessary times.

To address these problems, Nicole McAden, Greenlink’s Marketing and Public Affairs Specialist, wants to “re-introduce Greenlink to the community” and show locals that they’re “good stewards of public dollars.” And they are.

The team secured a grant to bring two Proterra buses to Greenville, which will help replace two of the five busses overdue for retirement. They conducted their own Comprehensive Operational Analysis this year to target areas where it can improve (key areas: longer hours, more frequent service, and better area coverage). As solutions, they’ve come up with new routes that are “budget neutral.” Like, creating routes that hit a stop twice, cutting wait time in half.

Gary Shepard, Director of Greenlink Public Transit, believes that this is the perfect time for change. “There seems to be more public acknowledgement that something needs to be improved. We’re getting a lot of good positive feedback – we want to know. We want to do better, we know we can do better, and we want to play a bigger role in the community.”

So Greenlink is amping up awareness and encouraging engagement by holding several (er, 16) public meetings to discuss change. For those who still don’t see public transit as an option for getting around the city, Greenlink’s “Try Transit Month” this October is full of events to highlight the economic and environmental benefits of public transportation.

  • Fare Free Friday | Oct. 27 | Try Greenlink for yourself and ride free on any of Greenville’s 11 fixed routes (find a map and schedule here).
  • Upstate Transportation Coalition Meeting | Oct. 11 | Jennifer Snow, Director of Accountable Communities for GHS, talks about the socioeconomic factors impacting public health and healthcare + the connection to public transit.
  • Catch a Greenlink ride during Fall for Greenville this weekend – it’ll be much easier than trying to find parking downtown.

This summer, the Piedmont Health Foundation hosted a “Public Transit Field Trip” to provide insight into Greenlink that non-riders might not experience. The group found the stories of Greenlink regulars completely changed their perspectives + the conclusion of the trip was that better transit means a better Greenville for everyone.”

The Upstate Transportation Coalition sees an increase in Greenlink’s budget as an opportunity to improve local business, economics + community. More funding could mean that unemployed Greenvillians without access to a car could get to job interviews and job fairs, students without transportation could have a reliable way to get to class, and last year’s $4.5 million cost of non-emergency EMS transport could shrink.

So spread the word: improving Greenlink means improving Greenville. Get a group from work together to take a Transit Field Trip, attend one of Try Transit month’s public meetings, or take the bus downtown next time you’re going out for drinks. It’s time for Greenville’s underdog to have its day.