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CARTA's“ unfulfilled expectations & poor perceived value
Lee Walton

During this past week, the Palter & Chatter'seditorial staff sent several of its younger, more adventurous reporters on a series of fool's errands as they each attempted to utilize Charleston County's much maligned public transit system as an alternative to their normal mode of commuting. Atypically, for the Palter & Chatter, this series of articles presented factual, first-hand accountings of the trials, tribulations and frustrations experienced by each reporter as they commuted to and from work on CARTA. Their stories were peppered with interviews with other commuters and personal, anecdotal experiences that, for the most part, were not flattering or complementary of CARTA. Each, in its own way, accentuated the fundamental flaw of public transportation in general and CARTA specifically - a mode of transportation exceedingly wasteful of otherwise productive time and, specifically for CARTA, undependable and unpredictable.

Most employees in the Greater Charleston area with forty hour, 9-to-5 jobs cannot depend on public transportation as their sole means of commuting if they expect to keep a good paying job in today’s competitive work place. Dependability and promptness are two hallmarks of a good employee. It's expected and, in many work settings, critical that workers be on time – productivity and corporate competitiveness are anchored in employees being available when required. Anyone who has ever ran a business or managed several employees understands the critical nature of worker dependability.

With few exceptions, CARTA is simply not a viable commuter alternative of choice to the private automobile. Personal time has simply become too valuable to waste day-after-day, hour-after-hour on a CARTA Bus. Ours is now a society that literally places a dollar value on what little personal time is available each day. Time for relaxation or time needed to attend to personal or family obligations has a value as real as the salary we receive. Valuable personal time wasted during a lengthy, snails-pace bus commute is a poor value. Time in today's fast paced, often hectic society is worth more by any measure than to be squandered in such an inefficient, unproductive manner.

As for unfulfilled expectations, watching a bus driver park and leave her passengers unattended 15 minutes for a KFC lunch is about as unfulfilled as one could imagine. Granted, everyone is entitled to lunch, but is this practice business as uaual for CARTA? Lordy, let's hope not! Hopefully, her relief driver was delayed or otherwise unavailable, and this was just a one time detour and frolic for a quick bite. One has to wonder though if she left the key in the ignition. Can you just imagine what kind of spin Howard The Bag Man Chapman would come up for the Palter & Chatter to rationalize a missing bus and a puzzled driver standing all alone with a greasy bucket of chicken?

Charleston's public transportation system, not unlike its public school system, is a poor return on the taxpayer’s equity and a poor perceived value. Like most consumers, taxpayers also eventually vote with their feet. It's only a matter of time and patience. With all the newly found wealth flowing from the ½ percent sales tax coffers, CARTA's Board and its brilliant transportation genus, Howard The Bag Man Chapman, will soon run out of excuses. One day, sooner than later, they each will face their own Banquet of Consequences.


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