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Greenville poetry project supports public transportation

Krys Merryman //September 7, 2023//

Greenville poetry project supports public transportation

Krys Merryman //September 7, 2023//

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There is poetry behind a Greenlink project designed to impact lives through access to reliable transportation.

Glenis Redmond reads her poem "Ride with Pride and Drive" at the Greenlink Poetry Project launch event on Sept. 7. (Photo/Krys Merryman)Greenville public transportation system provided nearly 700,000 rides to city residents in 2022, the transit service says. Sixty percent of riders utilize the services at least five days a week, mostly to get to work and run errands.

Through a partnership with Greenville Poet Laureate Glenis Redmond, local poets conducted interviews with seven Greenlink bus riders to form the “Greenlink Poetry Project.” The poets used their stories to inspire a collection of poems around the theme "Why I Ride." Through poetry, officials hope to create an understanding of why public transit matters to its riders.

“One thing I think of when I think about this project is I think poetry is everywhere,” said Redmond. “Poetry is not just for poets. It’s for everyone. Every day we walk out our door there is a poetic moment that happens. The poet is just the person who stops and jots it down. When we stop to tell our stories, that’s when the walls come down. That’s when we meet each other in upside times, when we think the world is on fire. Stories become that still place, our center. May you always find the poetry in your lives.”

Greenville Mayor Knox White grew up riding the city bus, and he said what he remembers most about it is the sense of community.

“There was always a lot of chatter and people talking to each other,” he said. “That’s why this project touched me. We can tell the stories of the people who ride the bus, put a face and a name, and a story behind it.”

Greenville Mayor Knox White shares importance of public transportation at the Greenlink Poetry Project launch event. (Photo/Krys Merryman)White said that in 2007, the city’s bus system was facing bankruptcy for the second time. That meant that all buses would shut down.

“Under city leadership at the time, we realized we needed to do something completely different,” White said. “It was too serious to keep patchworking this issue, because Greenville needs reliable transportation.”

So the city stepped in to operate the bus system and named it “Greenlink.”

“In 2007, a lot of people rolled their eyes at the name, but it’s an aspirational name that shows what we are trying to accomplish here in Greenville,” White said. “With the environment, linking people to jobs and opportunities, that’s what we wanted to project. And here we are, 15 years later, and we have a great Greenlink. It’s always moving forward.”

Greenlink offers 12 fixed routes to destinations across Greenville County. All Greenlink buses are accessible for mobility devices, and each Greenlink bus is equipped with a bike rack. The Greenlink system also features GAP, an ADA paratransit service provided for those who, because of a disability, are unable to use Greenlink's fixed route bus service.

Greenville's public transit system is operated by the city of Greenville under contract to Greenville Transit Authority, which is governed by a seven-member board — two appointed by the city, two by the Greenville County Council and two by the county legislative delegation.

Greenlink is currently hiring drivers to provide even more routes to customers.

To read the full poems by project participants, visit the city’s website.