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Free to Roam

Charleston is not densely populated enough to support a conventional public transportation system that works well for the majority of its people, but we have a fleet of publicly owned vehicles that are grossly underutilized - they belong to us, the people of Charleston. A voluntary nongovernmental program that rewards citizens for carpooling through an easy-to-use app would help the working poor (with and without cars), alleviate traffic, shrink our carbon footprint, help businesses get the workers they need to thrive and bring community together. Think: Uber but by the people, for the people - and affordable for all.  A real ride share app. The technology already exists, we just need to find the best option, adapt it for our community and license it. 

An app like this requires a critical number of active users to get going. Accordingly, we would need to activate the community powerfully and start in a concentrated area and work out from there - College of Charleston and its immediate vicinity is an excellent candidate. Getting institutional buy-in from MUSC and other large employers would be valuable.

Uber and Lyft have used technology to put the fleet of vehicles owned by us, the people, to the task of making fortunes for a few. There is no reason we cannot do the same, but with the aim of empowering We the People to get where we need to go with less cost - both financial and environmental.

Furthermore, given the urgent need to shrink our carbon footprint in a city experiencing increasing traffic congestion - and the extreme financial distress of our most economically disadvantaged citizens - we should seriously consider following Clemson's lead by making public transportation FREE OF CHARGE. (An illuminating study of fare-free systems is available here.) CARTA provides free shuttle service in the downtown area, primarily benefiting tourists. If we can offer free transport to affluent travelers we can certainly find the less than $4 million needed to make bus ridership free for all our residents. Given the relatively light ridership of our bus system, the increase in use resulting from a zero fare should be easily accommodated with existing resources.