Arnold Karr rides the bus but not because he has to.
“It was partly an economic choice on my part,” says the 59-year-old retiree. “But it was also partly out of self interest.”
All those years of commuting from Columbia to the Trenton Correctional Institution in Edgefield County might have had something to do with it.
Karr says he used to drive 65 miles one way when he was working as a teacher for the Department of Corrections, all the while thinking that someday he would give up driving and let someone else take the wheel.
“I wanted to ride the bus,” he says. “And I wanted to ride it around town. Once I was in a position that that was not unreasonable, I made the decision.”
Karr, who lives by himself in a downtown neighborhood near the State House, says he uses the bus to go “just about everywhere.”
“I use the bus for doctors’ appointments or if I need to go grocery shopping or if I want to go to the movies,” he says.
Karr says his decision to make the bus service his No. 1 means of transportation was also something he felt would help contribute to Columbia’s quality of life.
“It’s basically the responsibility of each person to make adjustments to their life where it might be good for the public good,” he says. “I can’t tell everybody what to do but this is something I can do and it’s easy for me to do and it’s cheaper.”
Fewer vehicles on the road, he says, leads to cleaner air and less congestion.
“It’s easier on the environment and improves things about the quality of life for everybody,” he says.
Quality of life is something he’s concerned about not only for his fellow Columbians but for his son.
Karr’s son, Gregory, was an avid bus rider up until recently, when changes to bus routes and schedules began affecting his ability to get to his job in the Rosewood area on a consistent basis. Gregory now takes a mo-ped to work.
Lack of alternative forms of transportation in the city is a concern.
“I’m disappointed that Columbia doesn’t have a commitment to transportation,” Arnold Karr says.
If Columbia wants to build an environment that is “viable for younger workers” like his son, the city should look to the quality of its transportation services first, he says.
“You can’t have a ‘Creative Class’ without those that work for the ‘Creative Class,’” he says.
“What I have seen is a lack of creative thinking across the board in terms of how to make the system work,” Karr says. “But this is not just Columbia but in many places in the United States. People are unwilling to learn how it’s being done in other places or in other parts of the world and how it’s being done successfully.”