Often it seems that public bodies don’t really want public input or scrutiny. They provide only the scantest of information and hope nobody will pay attention to what they’re doing.
But while CARTA was criticized as not having publicized a Monday night public hearing adequately, the accusations aren’t altogether warranted.
Monday’s hearing, and another planned for 6 p.m. today at Burke High School, were both advertised by legal notice 10 days prior to those meetings. Signs were posted in all buses. Rack cards were provided. The meeting dates and times were posted on CARTA’s website, RideCarta.org. Board members were given information and asked to spread the word to friends and churches. And neighborhood association presidents were all notified.
Still, Rawle Murdy’s Lindsey Barrett, who handles CARTA’s public relations, said feedback from Monday’s meeting will help CARTA be even more thorough in publicizing such meetings in the future.
As suggested by state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, CARTA will make sure information is provided to public housing projects.
In addition, signage and postings will be more descriptive. The website notice for these two meetings referred to “possible revisions to CARTA routes on the Charleston Peninsula.” Officials have been asked to be more specific: The meeting will discuss CARTA’s general service and potential route cuts involving No. 21 Rutledge Grove and No. 201 North Beltline.
They will ask bus drivers to make announcements about hearings.
They will also make an effort to get announcements in the media two weeks ahead of time, then a day prior to the event and then again on the day of the meeting.
CARTA, unlike some public bodies, has incentive to keep customers happy. The more people who use CARTA’s public transportation, the more money it collects and the better the agency fares.
To meet demands, it gathers and relies on hard data including ridership for different routes. But it also considers user comments.
As Charleston continues to grow and tourism continues to increase, effective and dependable public transportation will be even more important. It reduces congestion and alleviates parking issues.
And many companies wanting to do business here expect the area to be served by efficient public transportation.
One person who attended Monday’s meeting questioned whether speaking up makes a difference. It seemed to him the decisions had already been made.
CARTA Executive Director Christine Wilkinson says that’s not the case.
People who are interested in CARTA and its routes would be wise to take her at her word and make their voices heard at Thursday’s meeting, and at future meetings that should be even better publicized.