Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Transit and Climate Change in SC Lowcountry- Problems and Solutions

Our core issues relate to Climate Change in many ways, largely through human impacts.

Transit- Flooding disrupts transit service and salt water destroys transit vehicles. Hurricanes shut down the transit system resulting in lost farebox revenue and lost federal matching funds. Flooding can sever the north south tranist lines which run through the Charelston neck, making transit travel between Charelston and N. Chareleston impossible. Cars, which operate on elevated I26 do not have this problem. however the massive amount of traffic now running on Rivers Ave. and Sprull is diverted to I26 and detours through West Ashley, making on time operations impossible. Our system relies on transfers between infrequent service to function. Without keeping schedule, a trip of ten miles can take several hours and waiting often has to take place at unsheltered stops. Though county council committed 600 million of the half penny sales tax for improved transit, there have been some suggestions that the transit system be cancelled and the fund used to build a flood protection wall around wealthy homes in downtown Charleston. A provision allowing the half penny tax to be used for "drainage" was slipped into the referendum language secretly by County Council. At the time everyone thought that meant buidling and improving drainage along the road and transit system.

On the bright side any bus, full of passengers emits far less carbon for passenger mile. The Oldest CARTA bus, burning diesel at the rate of four miles per gallon transporting 50 passengers Operates at at a rate of 50 passenger miles per gallon. A single passenger vehicle, operating at 30 miles per gallon burns nearly twice the gas per passenger mile. CARTA has five electron Pro Terra buses on order.

Transit vehicles are also durable. Some CARTA buses have been in service since the Atlanta Olympics and are now over 20 years old, reducing the environmental impact of new vehicle construction.

Transit reduces the need for roads and parking lots, which absorb a lot of solar radiation and contribute to global warming. Since this temperature increase in concentrated in urban areas, this increase the energy demand for air conditioning. Hard surface roads and parking lots also contribute to flooding.

Floyd Manor Public Housing near planned Transit line
Affordable Housing- Hugo destroyed about 8 thousand low income housing units, mostly older wooden houses which often sheltered several families. these buildings had termite and rot problems and simply collapsed under the force of the wind. Several people were killed that way. The cost of rental housing went up drastically as wealthier people forced from their homes competed for the available apartments in the market. the large public housing project East of East Bay street near what is now the Aquarium was flooded and later leveled. Condos for the wealthy, elevated above anticipated flood levels now stand there.Homeless people are very vulnerable in hurricanes and even rain flooding. Many live under bridges or in low lying areas. Since Tent City was cleared, most homeless people now live in mobile micro camps and reaching them with warnings and evacuation assistance is very unreliable. The loss of affordable housing in the city due to flooding and hurricane damage reduces the population of people who use transit, meaning lost ridership and cancellation of routes and service.

Tent City, Charleston, 2016
Transit makes it possible for people seeking lower housing costs to choose from more options in more areas and to have more power in negotiating rent costs. Housing is more affordable when a family does not have the burden of supporting a car. 30% of the cost of the new apartment buildings being constructed in Charleston is devoted to the cost of parking structures and lots. Parking lots and structures could be better used as housing or open space.

The planned Bus Rapid Transit line promised to begin operating in 2025 will open large areas for the creation of dense, walk able communities where residents will be able to walk, or in some cases ride the elevator to their local transit stop. We've been involved in the effort to build such a community on the site of the old naval hospital for two years.

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Living Wage- Hurricane Dorian cost the local tourism industry over 50 million dollars, including 10s of millions of dollars in wages and tips which were not earned. Workers will still have to pay the high rents Charleston demands.  (there is some public assistance available for that purpose from FEMA)  Dorian  was the third nearly week long shut down of our tourism industry in 12 months. The Snow storm and the 2018 hurricane also took place in the previous 12 months. Low wage workers are often required to work instead of evacuate. SC is a right to work space and they know they can be fired for any reason or no reason at all.

Transit helps riders save money. Parking downtown now costs about $20 a day. The new HOP lot reduces that to $5 per 24 hours and connects people with a fast shuttle ride into the city. Getting more people to ride improved bus services all the way from their homes would be even better for the environment. Parking lots are far from free. the new park and ride facility in N. Charleston cost about $3 million dollars or about 10 thousand dollars per space.

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