At the first-ever “Bus Day at the Statehouse” Thursday, mass transit users from across South Carolina came to the capital to talk about the importance of buses and ask lawmakers for additional funding. It was held in conjunction with “Senior Day at the Statehouse,” since so many senior citizens rely on buses for transportation.
Ethel Moore of Greenville says, “It’s very important to me that I can get around, at my age, so I do it to keep myself active.” She thinks lawmakers should put more money toward buses. “They run like every hour now, so if they could increase the time and have them run a little more often, that would be good,” she says.
In all their debate about improving the state’s roads and transportation system, lawmakers do not plan to give any more money to mass transit, though. Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, has led the House’s efforts to pass a bill to improve roads. “Our whole focus in South Carolina on roads has been the improvement of existing roads we have, and of course mass transit really is not part of that,” he says. “And I think really that whole prospect of more mass transit falls more to the locals than it does to the state.”
He says mass transit currently gets about $31.5 million a year from the gas tax, and every additional dollar going to transportation should go to roads.
But Mark Rickards, director of the Greenville Public Transportation system, says, “One of the benefits of public transportation is we help take cars off the roads, and especially in the Interstates with commuter bus, so I think that’s very important to realize there’s room for both transit and highway improvements.”