District 21 Republican Candidate Lance Byars:
Question 1) What do you think the County Council’s role is in improving the county’s walking and biking infrastructure?
Answer 1) Greenville County Council should be tasked with improving the infrastructure needs of all citizens, and that includes walking and biking. It is important to understand that there are many forms of transportation, so council must take into account the needs presented by those who wish to use other means besides the automobile.
Question 2) What would you say are Greenville’s transportation challenges? Do you think walking, biking and transit play a role in solving those challenges? How?
Answer 2) As Greenville County continues to grow, traffic, safety, and overall infrastructure needs to be a top priority. I am always in favor of planning ahead, and making sure that these issues are addressed before they arise, not after. With a Master’s in Real Estate Development, I know that more communities are leaning on walking and biking as an alternative transportation option. Increased participation in biking and walking as a form of transport can help alleviate traffic, and to have that happen, there needs to be safe areas where people can choose that alternative form of transportation.
Question 3) Greenville County’s land use policies have a major impact on how people get around. Numerous studies show if you build pedestrian and bike-related infrastructure, people will use it. In addition, this type of infrastructure is much cheaper to build and maintain than car-based infrastructure. But when new construction is not required to include pedestrian and/or bike infrastructure, it is very often not included, limiting people’s options, and make foot and bicycle transportation less safe. What role do you think County Council plays in helping manage growth to ensure residents have transportation options?
Answer 3) County Council has a responsibility to do what is best for Greenville County, and this includes providing options on travel method. It is common sense for us as a community to consider the implications of not including bike lanes, sidewalks, etc. into our plans, and know that the net benefit can far outweigh the cost. That being said, funding is always the difficulty that can stand in the way of necessary change. As we move forward, we must understand ways that we can build upon our typical automotive infrastructure, as well as creating safe thoroughfares for pedestrian traffic.
Question 4) The Swamp Rabbit Trail has had a huge impact on the economy and quality of life in our county, and there are plans to extend the trail to CU-ICAR. Some, but not all, of these installations can be grant funded. What other revenue sources will you propose for expanding our off-road trail?
Answer 4) My goal as a conservative, and as a councilor, would be to treat all funds at the county’s disposal as if it were my own, and to protect the taxpayer’s dollar. If on council, I will explore any options available for such projects, but will always make sure that the county’s essential priorities are taken care of first. I believe that the Swamp Rabbit Trail has been an economic engine for the county, as evidenced in Traveler’s Rest with the emergence of many new restaurants, breweries, and local retail establishments. Greenville has taken pride in it’s success with public private partnerships that has alleviated not only costs, but has provided confidence in our communities’ views of projects such as the Swamp Rabbit Trail. The Swamp Rabbit trail extension must protect its value to Greenville County as a whole by ensuring broad community support.
Question 5) The 2014 Roads Referendum included 101 bike walk projects that would cost $47.8 million. These proposals included many safe-routes-to-school projects, such as sidewalks to Monarch Elementary and Bells Crossing Elementary. There has been no discussion of funding these projects since the defeat of the referendum. Do you support funding these projects? How can these projects be funded so they may be built in the near future?
Answer 5) To determine whether or not these projects should be funded, I would want to have extensive discussion with the residents in my district and gather their thoughts on which projects are needed first, and which can come thereafter. I also think it is wise to review our budget and determine how and if we can fund these projects with the failure of the roads referendum. A 47 million dollar price tag was enough to cause many people to shy away from supporting these projects. However, a comprehensive plan to implement these projects over a period of time while funding other essential needs like law enforcement and vehicle infrastructure will continue to protect the image of school sidewalks and help move these projects forward. I want to be an advocate for our state government to put together a plan to fund our state infrastructure as needed, and also fully fund our local government funds, which will provide money for projects like these. Without that additional funding, it may be difficult to allocate money to all of the projects included, but if prioritized, we could possibly fund them on a case-by-case basis.
Question 6) Would you support the legislation in Columbia allowing a penny sales tax option for road improvements, including for biking and walking infrastructure, be granted to cities instead of just counties?
Answer 6) I have always supported the idea of “Home-Rule”, in that the most local form of government is the government closest to its citizens. More often than not, counties and cities are better equipped to make decisions for their constituents. That being said, South Carolina has witnessed disastrous effects of local option taxes with the most recent being in Richland County. Richland County is currently under investigation for misuse of local option funds and facing outcry over the referendum itself. I understand both the need and hesitation of each governing body on this issue, and would like to hear more from organizations like The Spinners Club before arriving to a position at this time.
Question 7) What role do you think County Council should play in making it safer for children to walk and bike to school?
Answer 7) I believe that safety is a primary responsibility of local government. As a county councilor, I will do everything that I can do to provide the safest environment for everyone, especially children. I will explore every possible avenue at my discretion to ensure this. Above and beyond any other pedestrian oriented projects, I believe that a child and their parents should feel safe about their trip to school, and have infrastructure in place to accommodate their needs.
Question 8) Public Transportation passengers often walk or bike to their destinations from the nearest bus stop; however lack of funding for bike walk infrastructure is a barrier for use of public transportation. What funding sources could County Council provide to help support Greenlink expansion and accessibility to bus stops?
Answer 8) One of the priorities for Greenville County Council listed in the biennium budget for 2016-2017 is the improvement of public transportation, including the Greenlink bus system. I am certainly in favor of exploring any possibilities to make this mode of transport a more viable option for the residents of the county. It does no good to have a bus stop that is only accessible by automobile, because that defeats the purpose. Bus stop locations should be strategically placed, and then should be ensured that local neighborhoods are able to access those stops safely on foot or by bicycle.
Question 9} Tell us about your personal experiences riding a bike, running or walking in Greenville County for recreation, exercise or transportation.
Answer 9) I very much enjoy walking and running for exercise, and have made it a goal of mine to spend more time riding a bicycle. I use the Swamp Rabbit Trail as a form of entertainment, often times jogging after work.