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Greenville Business Magazine

Join the nearly 100 businesses and organizations that are pushing to remove transportation as a workforce barrier

May 06, 2019 09:17AM
By Jason Zacher

Our economic future is linked to its ability to attract and retain workers and their families. However, another generation of prosperity in the Upstate won’t be possible without investments in transit options like Greenlink. Health care providers, restaurants, hotels, schools, manufacturers, and other businesses need more access to qualified workers. These workers improve quality of life for all of us.

The time has come for action. The time has come to invest. The time has come to fund a better transit system in Greenville and across the Upstate. 

Transit is a basic public service in a metro area of our size. A new generation of workers demands it. The lack of basic transit in our region will soon be an economic attraction and retention problem. Surveys of younger workers, as well as companies looking to locate, all cite a transportation system as a major quality they look for in a community.

Add into that some facts that are plain and well-known to anyone who is engaged in talent attraction. We have thousands of open jobs across the Upstate and nobody to fill them. We need to remove barriers to employment and get more of our friends and neighbors back into the workforce. Transportation is a key workforce barrier. It’s also the one with the most straightforward solution: We need more investment from our local government.

Most people reading this have probably never ridden Greenlink, or you live in a part of town where you don’t see the packed buses running during rush hour. Greenlink doesn’t cross your mind much, so you may not know that the buses run in one direction once an hour. 

That’s not very convenient, easy, or available. That’s not Greenlink’s fault. Decades of inattention and neglect have forced the system to run on a fraying shoestring. But that’s not unlike other critical infrastructure in our community such as our roads and sewer (both of which are finally getting the attention they need). 

The requests for investment aren’t radical. We’re talking about immediately expanding service to 11:30 p.m. on weekdays and expanding service on weekends. This doesn’t include bi-directional routes or 30- or 20-minute routes, which are the solutions that will increase ridership and really make Greenlink a better transit system.

Imagine for a moment that you have to get to Greenville Tech for a class so you can upgrade your skills and get a new job. Let’s say you live in City View. If you have a 9 a.m. class, you need to catch the No. 9 bus outside of Legacy Charter at 6:55 a.m. You’ll take that bus nearly 25 minutes to the Downtown Transfer Station. Then you’ll have 10 minutes to grab the No. 1 bus for the 34-minute ride to Greenville Tech at 7:30 a.m. to get to the school at 8:04 a.m. Catch the next bus and you’ll be late for class.

You only have to go five miles. Of the people who drop out of Greenville Tech—the people trying to get the skills they need for better jobs —nearly 1 in 5 told the college that it was because of a lack of transportation.

There are thousands of people in our county who do this every day. Imagine again if you’re a single parent and perhaps that while you’re at Greenville Tech, your child is sick at school. There is no service that will get you back to the school in an hour, and then you’d have to probably wait another hour with your child to take the bus again to a doctor’s office. You’re now looking at a proposition that would take you half a day or longer.

The reactions to stories like these are common in this area: “Well, the money is there, they just need to use it more efficiently.” It’s the fallback argument whenever we talk about poor government service in our state, but that’s not the case here. Greenlink has made major strides in the past five years and is one of the most efficiently run transit systems in the country with the few resources it has.

That argument doesn’t cut it any longer.

The time is now for business leaders across the Upstate to contact their local officials and tell them to invest in Greenlink. At the kickoff of this campaign in early April, hundreds of emails and phone calls were made in only the first few hours. They’re still dribbling in, but if this is something that impacts your business, you need to engage now. It takes about 30 seconds. 

Go to www.greenvilleconnects.org and join the nearly 100 businesses and organizations that are pushing to remove transportation as a workforce barrier. Do it today. The health and wellness of your employees or your ability to fill your next job vacancy might hinge on it.