Saturday, March 29, 2014

Public Transit Important to Economic Development of Local community

Political, Community Leaders Need to Realize Benefits of Encouraging Better Transit System in
Lowering Unemployment, Creating Jobs

By: Keith H. Seymour

Recently, I attended a Columbia City Council Meeting, where the theme of this meeting, and all of the presentations, had to deal with “Columbia's Economic Development.” As I sat there in that meeting for over four hours I heard the City of Columbia praising and encouraging every civic and business leader in the room in the area of bringing various groups to the table to discuss the “Economic Development of this City. Upon being given my chance to speak, I stated my total disgust with City Council for not considering those involved with public transit in Columbia, important enough to be include in any of these discussions. Now, I realize that someone reading this might wonder what having a a viable bus system has to do with the positive development of Columbia's economic development. So, I am going to put it in perspective by pointing out a few facts and some common sense conclusions.

At the this very same meeting, when addressing the economic importance of mentor programs such
as “My Brother's Keeper,” existing in the Columbia Ar Ea, Councilwoman Devine pointed out that
African-American males in Columbia have more than a 20% unemployment rate, which is”higher than the state average of 17%. In addition to this, shortly before Councilwoman Devine made this statement, Councilmen Runyon and Boudouragh, and City Manager Wilson were discussing the possibility of keeping the emergency homeless shelter open for an “additional' forty five days. Several minutes was spent on the increasing homeless problem in our area.

It does not take a genius to figure out that if a better transit existed, therefore allowing more people to be employed, and others to have access to better jobs, in addition to more discretionary income being spent on restaurants and entertainment venue, more people would be employed. Lower unemployment has the potential to lower homelessness in this town. This would make the city more attractive to businesses, tourists, and new residents that the city is trying to bring to this city in the name of economic development. The fact is that when Sunday and later evening routes were cut between 2008and 2009, people began loosing their jobs, while others were turned down for jobs because they could not work on a Sunday, or past 7:30 p.m. The city has even lost prospective businesses and many of its citizens have left Columbia for places such as Charleston, Greenville, Atlanta, and Charlotte, and other communities, whose economic development has coincided with the increase in their transit system. These other transit systems have succeeded and continue to succeed because their communities view the public transit system as “tool of economic development,” rather than a “system to transport the poor and minorities It would there behoove the political and business leaders in this town to change their attitude, and become more “active” in working with those working to enhance and increase our local transit system.

The late Ike McCleese, former president of Columbia Chamber of Commerce, and an avid proponent often pointed this very fact out to several of our political and business leaders. Until this attitude changes,and more people tell our political and business leaders to think more like the late Mr. McCleese, Columbia will be stuck with an inefficient transit system that helps to perpetuate unemployment, homelessness., and tax paying citizens making an exodus from this city, causing a greater economic burden on those who remain. This will remain true regardless of how many new stadiums are built, minor league teams created, how many additions are made to museums, or how much money the city spends on improving storefronts.

Keith H. Seymour is the First Vice President and Communications Chairperson of the Midlands Transit Riders Association, a non-profit organization that advocate for a more efficient Transit system in the Columbia-Midlands Area. He may be reached t or at 80-960-8785.


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