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Patrick, FAST

Written by Lindsay Lanquist

Patrick Harman has been interested in community service work for as long as he can remember. He has been directly involved in four nonprofit organizations, and his work has ranged from being a board member for Christmas Cheer to helping Alamance Citizens for Education get established.

"I think I've always want to make the world a better place," he said. "That set me on the road to where I am now."

Harman's most recent project has been starting the advocacy group FAST - Friends and Advocates of Sustainable Transit.

FAST is a nonprofit organization that seeks to provide sustainable transportation throughout Alamance County. Harman and other FAST members advocate for things like more sidewalks, bike lanes and public transportation in an attempt to solve mobility problems in the community.

"Personal transportation is one of the worst uses [of money] in my mind," he said. "Owning a car is expensive, and it limits folks' options who don't have that many options to begin with."

"Transportation can be an issue getting from home to here, much less to Chapel Hill," Salisbury said.

Harman joked that if cars were like vending machines and people had to put in money every time they wanted to drive them, they would probably think twice.

"If you added up your insurance per month and your car payment and whatever, and you had to stick $20 worth of coins in your car, you'd be like, 'What am I doing?'" he said. "I'd love to do that experiment. You'd get a lot more people on buses."

From his perspective, a car is an unnecessary expense, and he said he hopes FAST will allow people to forego that cost and spend their money on other things.

But for Harman, increasing mobility isn't just about helping people save money. It's about increasing access to things like jobs, doctor appointments and healthy food options.

He also said he thinks public transportation would help boost the local economy.

"There's this whole shift toward being more local," he said. "And with this notion of mobility, things are closer."

Harman has spent the last eight years working to raise awareness about the lack of mobility in the county. He and FAST members created a task force, trying to educate community members and local officials about the ways public transit could improve Alamance County.

When changes in county commissioners were made a few years back, FAST's work "bit the dust," as Harman said. But the advocates were not deterred. They continued pushing for sustainable transportation and educating people about the need for mobility in the community.

"Changing mindsets is really difficult. That's one thing I've learned," he said. "It has taken eight years for folks to really get it. If you're trying to impact issues to make a better Alamance, you have to know it's the long-haul. It's not something you can solve in a month or two."