By Shelby Smithey…
Local County Commission candidates gave a few short speeches Tuesday morning before stepping on a bus at the Rosa Parks Bus Station to ride with passengers on their daily commute.
The event was part of “National Transit Voter Week” by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1395 to get public transit riders to vote and to make mass transit an issue in the election.
“We want to see you as the bus riders have a voice about your transit system, said Michael Lowery, President of ATU Local 1395. “We are hoping that you will get out and vote. Your voice needs to be heard. We want to remind everyone that early voting starts this Saturday.”
Lowery urged bus riders to vote for ATU Local 1395 endorsed candidates including Wilson Robertson, Steven Barry and Lumon May.
“I hope in the last four years I have shown you that I support mass transit,” Wilson Robertson, District 1 County Commissioner, said. “We all would love to have a dedicated funding source and in the future we are going to be looking at that.”
Robertson continued to list the many benefits of public transit.
“Riding mass transit does a lot of good for our community,” he said. “It eases traffic congestion, reduces gas consumption and dependence on foreign oil, keeps our roads safer, improves air quality by reducing car pollution, saves up to $820 a month on transportation costs and stimulates the economy.”
Lowery said that riding a bus versus driving your car is 91 times safer and that Escambia County won an award last year for one of the safest transit properties in the country.
General Manager of Escambia County Area Transit Mary Lou Franzoni then said a few words about the future plans of ECAT.
“We plan to make a lot more progress in the next year or two in making this a first-class organization,” she said. “We want to meet the needs of everyone in this county and we are working hard to do that.”
Steven Barry then addressed the necessity of mass transit in the economy. “Mass transit is something that can feed into economic development,” he said. “If we have a more efficient mass transit system, than we have a more efficient way of getting more employees to job sites affordably.”
Lumon May, candidate for District 3, said that many people in his district depend on public transit.
“Sixty percent of the people in my district ride mass transit,” May said. “I think people need to realize that there is no economic development unless there is a mass transit system.”
Before the candidates boarded the bus, Lowery reiterated the importance of bus riders getting the vote out.
“Five to eight thousand people ride ECAT each day and that is a powerful block of voters that can impact the outcome of this critical election,” Lowery said.