Wednesday, June 13, 2018

West Ashley Transit Improvement Proposal

West Ashley Transit Improvement Proposal
June 13, 2018
Best Friends of Lowcountry Transit
Linked Version Posted for comment at

We believe the single most achievable approach to improving public transit in the West Ashely area in the CARTA 2018-2019 Budget cycle should focus on improving service along Sam Rittenberg Blvd. connecting Citadel Mall and the area West with N. Charleston by increasing frequency on the existing Northbridge Bus Line, improving stops and creating a functional park and ride opportunity at the old Piggly Wiggly location.
West Ashley has been the most difficult area to reach in our work. We did two days of canvassing last fall on Highway 61 and Sam Rittenberg.  We participated in three West Ashely Farmer’s Markets with an information tent presence and talked to many West Ashley residents elsewhere. We participated in online discussions as well, which were marked with a general pessimism.

The existing developed area has maximized road capacity, in some cases creating intersections nearly impossible for pedestrians and cyclists to cross on foot.  Gridlock has begun to appear regularly. A transit supportive PAC we share members with did one morning of election transit outreach at Citadel Mall. We rode the St. Andrews, Savannah Highway, #2 Express and Northbridge bus several times. Our IT coordinator and six year veteran of our transit advocacy efforts, Dave Crossley lived in the area before leaving for better transit and living opportunities in Delaware last fall and was a careful student of operations there.  Mary Smith, who appears as our mascot Sylphide, currently lives on Sam Rittenberg blvd.

Increase Frequency on the North Bridge Bus Line

The Northbridge bus currently operates on a one hour headway, meaning the average wait for a ride on that bus is a half hour at any given time. Service North and South in N. Charleston on the #10, #11 and several other routes runs about every 20 minutes at Superstop. The stop at Citadel Mall has a bus running to Charleston about every half hour and much more often during the commute. The St. Andrews goes Westward to St. Francis Hospital and Bees Ferry road (Walmart) through a rapidly developing area. Service om this western part area  has been unstable. Service connects  the mental health clinic and social security office out there, which both generate a lot of rides.

This area is home to a lot of younger riders. They plan their trips on their smart phones. CARTA can’t compete with Uber over 50% of the time. Residents aren’t getting the value they were promised for the sales tax money.

Increasing frequency on Northbridge route would more than double ridership. Major employment centers at Citadel Mall, along the route itself need service. The ride into Charleston from the connection in N. Charleston is approximately 30 minutes with three bus lines making that connection. It’s also about 30 minutes from Citadel Mall to downtown, meaning a trip from any point along those three routes can be accomplished in about an hour in either direction with 30 minute sevice on the Northbridge.
Bus Stop, Citadel Mall
Sam Rittenberg needs several more shelters. Current unsheltered stops are uncomfortable and humiliating. There is an excellent new shelter near the intersection of Highwy 61 and Sam Rittenberg.

The Shelter and stop at Citadel Mall (Image, left) needs to be lighted, enlarged and supplied with a sidewalk connecting the area as many as six buses pull in at the same time at.

A park and ride lot needs to be developed at the old Piggly Wiggly location. The trip from there to downtown Charleston is currently only 36 minutes.  This should decline some with greater frequency. A dedicated express bus could make the trip during the commute in 18 mintues.  The park and ride facility should include a shelter and be collocated with a sympathetic business which sells bus passes, refreshments and provides restrooms. Transit riders and family pickingup and dropping off should be sufficient to keep a coffee shop or convenience store at this location busy. A Starbucks in in the area now and is already used by transit riders.

Building Ridership for a Sustainable Route

Building ridership would require an on the ground outreach effort of about 250 staff hous with materials cost of about $1500. At least half of those hours would need to be experienced, paid workers. The balance could be provided by about 250 additional volunteer hours, provided the volunteers work with the support of paid staff. The entire effort should be planned for mid fall and would take about two weeks, concluding before November 1. We could capitalize on the Halloween and Harvest vents and push all West Ashley Service.

Increasing frequency on the Northbridge Route would require an increase in the CARTA budget for the West Ashley area which would be covered by reducing the amount which is currently being diverted for road construction.

Best Friends of Lowcountry Transit will submit this proposal to the Tri County Transit Equity Coalition on June 20 and if approved to the full CARTA board that same afternoon.  Comments to this proposal can be posted to our blog:  A linked version of this proposal will be posted there.

William J. Hamilton, III
Attorney at Law, Executive Director, Best Friends of Lowcountry Transit, Inc., (843) 870-5299

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