Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has an answer for everything. He can explain why he lied about hiking the Appalachian Trail when in fact he was in Buenos Aires with his mistress. He can explain why he trespassed into his ex-wife’s house, violating the terms of their divorce. But here’s one thing he doesn’t have an answer for: a questionnaire about transit.
The Hungryneck Straphangers, a grassroots transit advocacy group based in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, issued a questionnaire to both candidates in the special Congressional election for Rep. Tim Scott’s seat (which he vacated to take Sen. Jim DeMint’s seat, which he vacated to be the frontman for the Heritage Foundation). They only received one response – from Sanford’s Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch.
That was after the group invited all the primary candidates to ride the buses with them and discuss the challenges facing transit riders. The majority of candidates took them up on it. Sanford didn’t.
Americans for Transit and the Amalgamated Transit Union have teamed up with the local straphanger group to push public transportation into the forefront of this high-profile campaign. Last week, they canvassed voters at five express bus stops around Charleston [PDF] and ran a training session for “transit voter empowerment.” They’re also going outside the urban core to “where transit is scarce or nonexistent.”
For the ATU, it’s the continuation of an effort they started last fall, distributing more than a million pieces of literature in the month leading up to Election Day and holding 56 events around the country where candidates rode the bus and talked with riders. In the absence of a national election day, they’re focusing on special races in Nebraska and South Carolina.
While Colbert Busch – yes, Stephen Colbert’s sister – did answer the Charleston transit questionnaire, her answers were less than inspiring. Her message to transit riders? “I will listen and make careful choices.” Will she fight for federal support to complete their intermodal transit center? “There are logistics to work out” but she supports “improvements to bus and rail connections.” Would she fight for a bigger share for transit at the federal level? “I see the value of improving and maintaining our roads… Transit should be part of the full infrastructure portfolio.”