Thursday, August 22, 2019

Bus Stops Safe and Clean for Everyone

The Transit centers at CARTA Superstop in N. Charleston and the Mary Street Transit Mall downtown near the visitors center connect many of the trips made on CARTA every day. Thousands of people wait and these locations to board, transfer and dismount as part of the critical daily trips which connect them with work, education, medical care, shopping and home. Recent problems with trash and threatening behavior at these stops much be resolved.

For our transit system to function and survive for the people who need and use it, our stops must be and remain a safe place for transit riders to connect with bus service.

Both transit centers have been improved over the last several years. Superstop has new seating, a paint job, better lighting and cameras. Mary Street has additional seating and cameras. Both centers benefit from the real time internet accessible data on bus routes and ETAs which can be obtained through the transit app and Google Transit.

Stops Plagued by Trash and Trashy Behavior

Unfortunately the Lowcountry's long, seemingly unfocused attempt to deal with homelessness and housing now burdens both stops with people who have nowhere else to go. In a better Charleston, these people would be working and taking short, efficient transit trips to affordable housing nearby. Gentrification, however has eliminated that option. The available shelters no longer house everyone needing a place to sleep, bathe or find a meal. The homeless camps which provided an alternative have largely been cleared. Many homeless people are now wandering the landscape, moving from place to place. Some of them have chosen to settle in our transit hubs, attempting to work out their problems with homelessness, mental illness and a lack of access to facilities for bathing and laundry in these, limited, critical spaces.

Some of their behavior is, often deliberately, threatening to others. It drives transit users away from our stops. This reduces ridership on our routes, which leads to the cancellation of service.

We continue to emphasize to every government official we can reach that Transit and affordable housing have to work together. Charleston's tourism economy will become impossible to sustain if we don't have affordable housing which is on transit lines which allow people to connect their homes, jobs and needs. Charleston already has several restaurant spaces which are dark because people can't be found to work there. The math of finding a place to live and getting to the job simply is impossible. We are unable to explain how the thousands of expensive, new apartments being opened solve this problem. The massive international corporations owning them aren't going to slash rents and devalue the capital value of their investment. The simple supply and demand model doesn't account for the realities of an investment model driven by both regular income and appreciation.

We do known that unless a lot of those new apartment residents take transit, their cars and Uber trips will lock up city traffic, making transit less functional in the process.

In recent rides on the #10 and #11 buses, the conditions at these two transit hubs have become the #1 concern of riders, rising above the traditional constants of more service and reliable operation. Transit stops full of garbage and bizarre, threatening behavior will drive riders away and strangle our transit service.

Taking Action August 21

On August 21, we asked the CARTA Board to act on this problem, which has been a recurring problem in the past. Representatives from both the City of Charleston and North Charleston promised to communicate with their police departments about the problem.

The police can't do this job without the assistance of transit riders. Please report problems to CARTA and the relevant police agency when you see them by callint 911.  If you can take discrete pictures or video, please do so.

Keith Benjamin, the director of Traffic and Transportation at the City of Charleston is already working on conditions at the stops in Charleston and building improved stops with shelters and welcomes your input.

Both Charleston and N. Charleston have municipal elections in November. When you meet the candidates for Mayor and City Council during the campaign, please make sure this issue gets their attention.

We'll report on progress on our Facebook feed. If you have questions or ideas, please contact William Hamilton, Executive Director of Best Friends of Lowocountry Transit by Email or call (843) 870-5299.

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