Sunday, June 17, 2018

Request better CARTA Bus Service for their 2018-19 Budget

Victory Celebration, Transit Referendum, Nov. 2016
Charleston County can use the money made available by voters and taxpayers through the 2016 half penny sales tax referendum to build a better bus system now, and lay the foundation for a powerful, regional transit system in the near future reaching Dorchester and Berkeley Counties to provide mobility to people and relive traffic congestion.

This page consolidates our proposals to improve CARTA bus service during their 2018-19 Budget Cycle.  All of these plans are in various stages of development depending on the target community's capacity to engage and organize. We've spoken to over 50 thousand people about this issue in the last year. It's expected plans for the actual service expansions and new routes will continue to evolve to and through actual deployment.

If you want this improved service, make sure you contact the CARTA board members representing your Community, your member of Charleston County Council and your local Mayor and Town or City Council.

Ron Mitchum
CARTA leadership, including Executive Director Ron Mitchum Phone: (843) 529-0400, Fax: (843) 529-0305 and CARTA Board Chairman Mike Seekings have been dismissing our efforts by insisting only a tiny group of people want better service and improving service has no real support. Make sure you reach them personally and your friends, neighbors, coworkers and employers do the same. Insist on a personal, live conversation with your local officials and let us know how it goes. This process takes place during the summer, largely out of public view and we'll have to work hard to get the change we voted for and are paying for.

"Pay Go" is a No Go for Transit

Shortly after the half penny sales tax passed, without public hearing or input, a politically appointed board approved their "Pay Go" plan to divert most of the money for improving regular CARTA bus service to an interest free loan fund for construction of sprawl inducing road projects. 11 million dollars was diverted in the first year with plans to divert over 10.5 million this year. The plan would continu to do this for the next ten years or more. When the bus funding is returned in 12 to 15 years, it will have lost over half it's value. Transit advocates call the plan, "We pay, You go."

Town and local officials asking for better bus routes face demands that they pay for them out of municipal funds instead of using the 350 million in half penny sales tax funds County Council approved for improving regular bus service already coming out of taxpayers pockets.  Mount Pleasant, Folly Beach and James Island have all faced demands that they fund improved bus service.

Since the COG controls lots of state and federal grant funding your Town or City desperately needs, as well as road funding, your local officals can't stand up for better bus service. Regular citizens must do that to avoid another year of inadequate bus service and declining ridership.

The time and place to demand this new service is at the Town, City and County Council meetings this summer where CARTA asks for it's budget to be approved.  Last year there was a real discussion in Mt. Pleasant which resulted in a vote to reject the proposed CARTA budget. The City of Charleston slipped CARTA budget approval through with an obscurely worded minor agenda item buried deep in JPG rendered document which assured it couldn't be found the sort of text search one could run on a regular PDF.  Some communities, like the Town of James Island don't have a seat on the CARTA board.

Don't like what you read here?  Don't panic. You don't have to be an officially approved "statekholder" on the same page with everyone else. Show up and demand what you want from the people you vote for to be paid for with the money they take out of your pocket that you voted to allow them to do. Sure they'll tell you they won't listen to you. Don't believe them. They'll listen to a well organized proposal from us that you support. However, they'll also listen to a big crowd of angry disappointed people as well. People we meet always wish us "luck."  The word they're actually looking for is "loud."  It's called representative democracy and freedom of speech.  Like a CARTA bus, it often arrives later than needed here.  They won't ever admit they're listening, even when they pretend to. Just stay loud until you and your neighbors get what you want or the next election. Mark Sanford refused to listen to citizens who wanted better transit  for three years, then lost his primary as the result of a campaign by transit advocates working for the local Up is Good Political Action Committee.

Plans for CARTA Improvement - 2018 to 2019

Hurricane Evacuation Bus System- Implement the proposals to fix our inadequate Hurricane Evacuation bus System made after Hurricane Irma in Fall 2017.  Ignoring tens of thousands of people who lack access to a car to evacuate and the growing population of medically fragile and nearly immobile people dependent on home healthcare technology invites disaster like seen in Florida, Houston and Puerto Rico last year.  Read our updated response to the State's inadequate Hurricane Emergency Guide. 

Electric Bus Grant Application- We're circulating an online petiton to help CARTA purchase 20 Battery Electric Buses made in Greenville, SC by Proterra.  Please sign the petition and share with friends. These would replace the Twenty 22 year old Atlanta Olympics Flyer buses in the CARTA Fleet.

James Island, Sol Legare (Mosquito Beach) and Folly Beach- Double the rate of service on the existing Folly Road bus from once every 95 minutes to once every 50 minutes. Establish a park and ride lot on Folly Road near the end of the regular bus line and near the Express bus stop. Run a shuttle bus to Sol Legare/Mosquito Beach and Folly from that Park and Ride lot and bus stop. Read the most recent version of our draft plan.  You can also take a look at our evolving Bus2Beach Google Slides presentation on this effort.

Beach service was proposed by the COG in the half million dollar study they released before the referendum election in February 2016.  You can view a PDF of their proposed beach routes here:

Begin work on a Folly Ferry connecting Charleston, James Island (via Wappoo Cut, Newtown Cut and the Stone River, Sol Legare Island and the back side of Folly Island.

You are invited to our upcoming Sunday, July 1 Folly Freedom Fish Fry to support this part of our larger effort at Island Breeze at historic Mosquito Beach. 75% of the net proceeds go to our Folly Road Freedom Campaign and 25% goes to support the Sol Legare Community center. The effort will help sustain recovery of the business community at Mosquito Beach as well. A traditional Caribbean fried fish dinner or vegetarian option will both be available.

Lincolnville Town Council
Lincolnville Ladson & Sangaree- Establish a new CARTA Route #16 connecting the #10 stop and new Park and Ride Lot at Otranto (the old Kmart Lot on North Rivers Ave. with Lincolnville, Ladson, the Exchange Park, Coastal Carolina Flea Market Complex and a Sangaree "kiss rider" stop.  This bus would run up Highway 78, into Lincolnville with a stop at Town Hall there (where bathrooms, bus passes and a shelter would be available) and back through a large new apartment development to it's return on Highway 78. This route extends transit service already running on CARTA's most successful route, the #10 and helps prepare the community for the planned Bus Rapid Transit Line.

This PDF shows the Lincolnville Turnaround Loop proposed for the North end of this bus line. It's subject to change based on some new road connections recently added in that area near the large Magonola Development.

We've met with the leadership of the Town of Lincolnville and put over 100 hours of outreach work into this area since February 2018. Read our initial announcement about our proposed improvements.

Mt. Pleasant Town Hall Bus stop
Mount Pleasant & East Cooper- Double service on the #41 bus route to every 45 minutes. Establish and maintain a functional connection to the existing Water Taxi service for this route. Continue to improve stops along Coleman Blvd. and elsewhere East of the Cooper with municipal, redevelopment and private funding from developers. (Mt. Pleasant is well on it's way to an impressive set of bus stops and already has a bus stop with a shelter and swing at Mt. Pleasant Town Hall.  Restore the #40 route to uninterrupted service all the way to Wando HS.  Establish a Mark Clark Connector Route running from N. Charleston, through stops on Daniel Island, Mount Pleasant to the beach at the Isle of Palms. Begin work to site and build East Cooperstop, a transit hub for the East Cooper area to connect service from downtown, N. Charleston, Daniel Island, Awendaw, McClellenville and the beaches East of the Cooper.

Interior of Proterra Electric Bus, made in SC
North Charleston- Improve bus stops on the #10 Rivers Ave., #11 Dorchester Airport and other bus lines.  Complete and properly operate the new Otranto Park and Ride Facility. Establish the first transit traffic signal prioritization on River's Ave. Establish and maintain higher standards for safety and sanitation at Superstop. Include communities along the planned BRT line to make sure the 350 million dollar project serves the communities it will run through. Make sure we have a "gold standard BRT."

Citadel Mall Bus Stop
West Ashley- Double service on the #32 Northbridge route along Sam Rittenberg Blvd and improve more stops, sidewalks and pedestrian crossings along that route. Improve the transit hub at Citadel Mall with a smooth sidewalk which connects bus loading areas.

Plan and begin construction of a park and ride facility West of the Ashley. The location of this is the subject of controversy, however we have supported use of the old Piggly Wiggly site near Ashley Plaza.  Some community representatives want a performance auditorium or facility there, but that would have to have a parking lot and that lot would be little used during daytime hours and could also serve as a park and ride with proper design. Read our derailed proposal for West Ashley.

Transit planning exercise for children.
Downtown- Improve conditions at Mary Street Transit Center. Make sure the planned BRT line continues without interruption to Line or even Spring Street. Don't waste our only available Transit Corridor into the City on Low Line park for dog walking which forces our BRT vehicles into glacial traffic conditions on the Meeting Street of seven years from now. Support implementation of the HOP shuttle bus and satellite park and ride system to full utiliztion with a turnover goal of 2.5 vehicles per space, per day. Begin development of enhanced Ferry Services to link downtown with East Cooper, Daniel Island, James Island, Sol Legare Island and Folly Beach.

We can't go slower

We understand this proposes a rate of change with overwhelms many long time local residents. However most of the planning for these improvements has already been done. Studies and data collection have already been completed at a total cost of over 4 million dollars over the last twenty years. There are studies costing hundreds of thousands of dollars each pending for Folly Road, West Ashley, and High Speed Transit and Corridors among others.

300 thousand new residents are headed to residential units already permitted in Berkeley, Dorchester and Charleston Counties.  Most of that is in parts of Berkeley and Dorchester Counties where little (Tri County Link) or no transit service is now available. In many cases road networks are being built in a disconnected fashion which will make future transit service impossible.

If CARTA's current plans for regular transit bus service are implemented, the percentage of local trips made on transit in our area will actually decline over the next 15 years, even if the BRT is actually constructed. Resistance to new developments is strong, but it's mostly just pushed sprawl further out into rural areas where there is no one to resist it. Over 3 billion dollars is already committed to new road construction in the Lowcountry. Even though it will actually make sprawl and congestion worse, road construction will continue to dominate local government priorities until it's utter and complete failure 5 to 10 years from now.

The consequences of this course of inaction are Charleston snarled in traffic. Beaches which have become inaccessible. There will be gridlock in the urbanized parts of Orchestrate and Berkeley County surrounded by rural and semi-rural areas which can't access shopping, employment, healthcare or cultural resources even with a car. Adding the traffic the new Volvo plant in Ridgepole will generate to this will exacerbate Orchestrate County's traffic problem.

Some parts of the Lowcountry have been planned in ways which make bringing transit within safe walk able distance of many homes impossible. It is hoped that better transit, well used in the areas which can support it will provide some traffic relief.

Revenge of the Robot Car

We do not believe that the robot car revolution will solve the Lowcountry's traffic problem as is often promised. Autonomous vehicles are likely to be owned by large corporations which use a licensed road network integration system which controls traffic. Access to this network will probably be by payment of variable rates like those used by Uber now, with fast trips during rush hour costing the most, whatever the "traffic" will bear. Experimental "Lexus Lanes" in DC have reached rates of over Forty Dollars for the homeward commute. The most likely result of the robot car revolution will be a privatized traffic management network where your human controlled vehicles are gradually eliminated the way the automobile industry drove horses, bicycles and pedestrians out of the roadway in the first half of the 20th. Century. This will suit the large corporations that want to efficiently concentrate wealth and may end up with everyone riding something more like public transit than the private driver controlled vehicles 95% of low country travelers rely on today.

Your Input

You can contact us at (843) 870-5299 or email Executive Director William Hamilton at However, remember you can't phone in your input via us and expect your elected officials to listen. They count noses and votes and they're eager to dismiss our efforts. They've told each other nobody supports us and are confidently dismissing our input in hopes culturally grounded fatalism will excuse them. Show up and speak for yourself. Get loud. Nothing else is going to work. See our Facebook events page for upcoming opportunities to be heard, but don't rely on it exclusively. Many of the meetings and agenda items are poorly publicized or expressed in obscure terms in places you are unlikely to see them. Sometimes we don't publicize our plans to show up to avoid arriving at a room which has been rigged to work against us. If you spot something, tell us and show up.


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