Yes, it is an act of patriotism to support public transit. From
sea to shining sea America the once beautiful is struggling under
a pall of polluted air, polluted water and shrinking green spaces.
The American Lung Association says that now 49% of Americans, 142
million, live in areas that puts them at risk and "75% of Americans
who live in areas with monitors are breathing in unhealthy amounts
of ozone, a powerful respiratory irritant. " That last category
Where is this pollution coming from? Roughly 50% is coming from
coal fired electric plants and industry and the other 50% is coming
from mobile sources. Highway vehicles account for 56% of carbon
monoxide pollution, 32% of nitrogen oxides (NOx), and 30% of volatile
organic compounds (VOC's). (Trends 1900-1998, EPA) NOx and VOC's
are the building blocks of ozone pollution. According to the EPA's
testing laboratories in Ann Arbor, Michigan, every year the average
car (21.5 mpg) traveling 12,000 miles emits 11, 450 lbs. of carbon
dioxide, 38.2 lbs of nitrogen oxides, and 575 lbs of carbon monoxide
while the average light truck (17.2 mpg) traveling the same distance
emits 16,035 pounds of carbon dioxide (the global warming gas),
55.8 lbs. of nitrogen oxides, and 854 lbs of carbon monoxide. No
wonder we are not breathing so well up here.
So, what is the solution?
"Hop on the bus, Gus…Make a new plan, Stan…No need
to be coy, Roy. Just get yourself free"…of that car.
And now it is easier than ever. On a bright sunny yellow alert June
day amid fanfare and ceremony, the second year of fixed route public
transportation departed. Among the tents, tables and brightly colored
Apple Country Transportation signs there was no shortage of elected
officials. Our NCDOT Board Member Conrad Burrell came along with
division engineer Ron Watson. County Commission Chair Bill Moyer
was there as master of ceremonies as well as Mayor Niehoff. Javonni
Burchett, the mistress of Apple Country Transportation and her boss,
David White couldn't seem to quit beaming. The drivers Richard Johnson,
Nicky Roberts, Martin Holbert and Jim Hart were as courteous and
solicitous as new ambassadors for Hendersonville should be. Yours
truly was running around clicking pictures.
However, the day really belonged to two "ordinary" citizens-Mr.
Public Transit, Paul Stepp and Mrs. Matealay McCloud. They both
refused to take "no" for an answer and proved that the
voices of ordinary citizens are indeed powerful. Last year we had
one little cute huffing and puffing trolley and now, due to their
citizenship, we have two new air conditioned buses running on hourly
And there were speeches. Commissioner Moyer was especially gallant
when he moved the entire seating arrangement to a shadier spot.
We listened appreciatively as dignitaries extolled the virtues of
public transportation and thanked contributors and volunteers. Sometimes
in the course of these types of events you do hear a stirring speech
that seems to perfectly encapsulate the moment. City of Hendersonville
Mayor Niehoff's presentation was such a speech. I asked him afterwards
if I might include his words in this column and he cheerfully obliged
by sending me the text. I believe all the citizens of Henderson
County need to hear his words as we begin this important transportation
endeavor that might help us once again become "O beautiful
for halcyon skies."
Mayor Niehoff began: "Good morning everyone. I want to thank
everyone who has played a part in getting us to where we are today.
Bill Moyer has named all of these persons, so I won't do that. But
I do want to thank those from DOT who have provided the funding.
Without that, we would not be here today. We would still be talking
There is no question that this step we are taking is controversial.
There are a lot of critics and doubters who say it won't work. Even
I have had my doubts. I am an engineer, and I like to plan things,
but I looked at the challenge of planning a bus route in a community
where everyone lives all over, and everyone drives in different
directions all over the place, I said, "No way."
So this is controversial. But one thing that is not controversial
is the fact that in our country, our state, and locally, the number
of miles that we put on our automobiles is rising two or three times
the rate of population growth. We are an automobile society. We
love our cars. But this trend cannot continue. We are running out
of room to build out in the country, and we aren't able to keep
up with the highway needs.
So, we are going to have to start doing things differently if we
want to reverse that trend. We will have to change the way we do
our planning for growth. We are going to have to promote more high
density mixed use neighborhoods to enable folks to walk, or bike,
or drive short distances. And we are going to have to provide public
This will not be an overnight success. It will take years to achieve
noticeable results. I am sure that this bus service will take time
to build up ridership. But we have to start sometime, and now is
Thank you again to all who have had the persistence to hang in there
and make this day a reality."
Can you adjust your schedule to use the new bus system twice a week?
Could you park at the Laurel Park Shopping Center and take the bus
to our wonderful Downtown or to Walmart? Would you consider saving
yourself a trip by letting the kids stretch their wings solo on
one of our new buses? Whatever you can do, remember…
All Aboard, because America Rolls.
To my readers: If you ever wonder if I get
comments on these columns, I do occasionally. What are your thoughts
on the matter?
opinions stated in this page are those of Ms. Eva Ritchey and do
not necessarily represent the views of CyTech Computers & Internet