Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Transit to the Atlantic, Summerville to the Sea

What We Need to Do

Millicent Middleton, Sea Island Unit Transit Advocate
The people of Summerville, Ladson and Lincolnville (hereinafter LinLadSum) have been telling us they want the rapid transit line completed for three years. It is time for the people of the North to drive the glacial and obscure planning process to completion and yank the concrete, asphalt and metal out of government to see it constructed and running from Summerville to the Sea.

The people of Ladson, Lincolnville and Summerville have the rights to demand a Bus Rapid Transit Line to Charleston which runs in its own, dedicated lanes, has comfortable stations and completes the trip in 59 minutes as promised in the I26 alt study . We must demand that now, before July 10, 2020 through their “LCRT online meeting” and our own socially distanced advocacy. We’re asking you to submit your comments at their online meeting and paste copies of what you tell them into the comments here so we can share it with other.

Transit Advocates Discover Unrest in the Land of the Cars

Pendarvis Campaign working on Rivers Ave.
State Rep. Marvin Pendarvis pushed us into the area, where we had done almost no work, to see what we could find. The results from Carol Dotterer and Louise Brown’s initial canvass were a shock. (Note: Marvin Pendarvis has not approved the content of this blog. He doesn’t control us. We don’t control him. He is happy to talk about his own views on transit and transportation issues and has introduced five bills on the subject.)

Despite the fading exurban landscape (now turning into subdivisions and apartments) and abundance of pickup trucks, people along Highway 78 were ready for transit. In Lincolnville, we met people who had moved here from New York to take care of elderly family members and become imprisoned in immobility. We found the area’s largest business incubator, not in a shiny government subsidized building downtown, but in the Ladson Flea Market. They were ready. Nobody had even talked to Lincolnville about the project which was to pass through their town, but they were ready. They reminded us their town had been founded by African Americans who sought freedom with their own, independent town and mobility through their connection to the Railroad. In downtown Summerville we found a business district struggling with parking and traffic issues full of people ready to ride.

Transit Advocates in downtown Summerville.
Carol and Louise also found failure. Streets and communities lacked sidewalks. The existing LINK bus service was unreliable and infrequent even though they had delightful drivers who simply wouldn’t do impossible things with a bus. Attendance at the Coastal Carolina Fair had plummeted over the years due to traffic problems which had now cured themselves. In nearby Sangaree, we found an aging 1980s large scale development stripped of its bus service where poverty and immobility were reducing resident’s quality of life. We attempted to leaflet the Summerville Senior Center, where they called the Police Department to run our quiet leafleting effort off their property, we saw a man walk out to the edge of their property, old and frail, visit a tree alone and then struggle back with his cane. Had their been barbed wire around the perimeter, it wouldn’t have been a more effective prison for him.

Autocentric Oppression

Carol Dotterer with BRT Survey mark
The car is mandatory in LinLadSum. It dominates the landscape, the politics, and the lives of people. Those who have one, are slaves to it, spending as much as three hours a day locked inside it. Running simple errands might take an hour. They must buy more cars for their teenaged children in hopes they can escape the unending trial of parent as chauffer between the empty communities where nothing happens and the remote soccer fields and shopping centers where time can be somewhat better spent. The empty houses surrounded by the bare spots in the grass where all these expensive, sometimes broken cars are parked are barely homes. They’re places full of people so busy and exhausted trying to go somewhere that no one is really there. It’s cruel and stupid. It has to end.

For the elderly, poor, disabled, and young who don’t have access to the automobile. Survival is a humiliating marathon of begging for rides, calling Uber and doing without. There are desperately needed affordable apartments in Lincolnville sitting empty because you cannot survive there without a car and many elderly people have outlived or live far from their families. For the carless of Ladson, trip the grocery store is a goal requiring days of planning for the starts to align. A trip for pleasure or to explore the landscape tourists travel from around the world to see is an unimaginable luxury. The precious begged for rides must be conserved for the doctor, pharmacy and store. If you can walk to the LINK route, the bus may not show up at all or simply drive past. There is no bench or shelter to wait.

LinLadSum Does Not Have to be this Way

It does not have to be this way. Ladson, Lincolnville and Summerville have public transit which would embarrass a third world country. We’ve met people who know from personal experience that it is inferior to what they have in Ethiopia. Our Latino friends in Ladson assure it Brazil is better.

BLFT staff with transit planning activity
Bad transit preserves the political power of the men (they are almost all men) who fear what unleashing the creativity, citizenship and power of people in their region might do to their eroding grip on control. Parents who can show up for meetings. Seniors who can visit each other without being protected from transit leafleting. Young people who can explore and learn about the world. Freedom remains a dangerous thing.

The voters of Charleston County have already appropriated 250 million dollars to build and operate a Bus Rapid Transit Line to Summerville in their 2016 half penny sales tax referendum. The people of Ladson and Lincolnville have been paying for it with higher sales taxes since May of 2017. In Summerville, the tiny section needed probably doesn’t require a bond referendum.

We were promised a trip from downtown Charleston to Summerville in 59 minutes. Recently the Convil of Governments has proposed a system which runs in ordinary traffic from Charleston Southern to the edge of Downtown Summerville. Politicians in Summerville have proposed a Park and Ride lot on 5th Avenue which would be five long blocks from Hutchison Square. The fact that someone might want to walk to or from the Bus Rapid Tranist system to downtown Summerville doesn’t seem to matter to them. They’re building a system for people to drive cars to parking lots to fit in the car saturated world they feel secure in.

Failure Alert

Lincolnville Town Hall
A Rapid Transit System which attempts to operate in regular traffic on the long, congested six miles of Highway 78 will fail. It won’t be rapid. It will be snarled in Traffic Congestion. It won’t be system because it won’t be able to keep a schedule any better than the exasperated drivers who can’t tell their wives, husbands and children when they might get home in their cars now. Finally, it won’t be transit because few people will ride it. Slow buses which wander around and maybe show up somewhere sooner or don’t work. In theory you can take the #1 CARTA Express to the Otranto Park and Ride and the LINK to Summerville and complete the trip (to the edge of town) in an hour and 28 minutues. In practice my best time, in several tries, has been two hours. It once took 2 hours and 45 minutes, when Ironcially, I attempted to take transit to a transit and road planning meeting at Azalea Park.

A few weeks ago, Lowcountry Up is Good, a locally based political action committee leafleted parts of Ladson in a lightening storm with the help of young volunteers organized by Linda Saylor. It was the last day before the election. When we told the kids there was no tomorrow, to just come back in. They asked if their efforts might decide the election. I told them they could. They hurled the doors of the van open and visited 250 houses in the driving rain while thunder and lighting blasted around them.

Those young people deserve a world they can grow in, explore, and prosper in. It we build a world which doesn’t do that, they’ll destroy us and build their own. The tired priorities of old men who like things as they are, slow, isolating and dysfunctional, need to get out of the way.

What LinLadSum Residents Need to Do Now

Go to their online LCRT meeting.Demand what you have paid for and been promised:

  • Help us get their attention
    Rapid transit operations in dedicated lanes on Highway 78 from River’s Ave to the edge of Downtown Summerville.
  • Safe, comfortable, lighted stops which can be reached safely from the side of the road.
  • A system which can complete the trip from Line Street in downtown Charleston to downtown Summerville in 59 minutes. 
  • Service all the way to Hutchison Square in Downtown Summerville with a stop in the business district near there.
  • Connecting Service in downtown Charleston at a safe, comfortable station on Line Street which connects to Folly Beach and the Isle of Palms.

If you want something more, don’t stop there. If you are in Ridgeville, tell them it needs to come to where you live. Linda Saylor and the lightning crew are working for you in Summerville, but they need a lot of help.

We have other blogs with more information on this project:

Proterra Electric Bus made in SC
Then take whatever you’ve told them at their online meeting and copy it into to comments to this blog post where the public can see it. The COG has already told Charleston County Council that all 1500 comments submitted through their online meeting are positive. Let’s put our demands where they can be shared and known. We’ll put hard copies of what you say here in front of your leaders and try to make them ready it. If that doesn’t work, we’ll set up banners by the roadway big enough for them to read when they’re not using their cell phone to tell their wives and husbands they’ll be stuck in traffic for another hour.

Written by 
William J. Hamilton, III
Executive Director, Best Friends of Lowcountry Transit
(843) 870-5299


  1. Please put your comments here, so we can share them.

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  2. Thank you William Hamilton for your comments which come from your own experiences as being vision impaired. I too am vision impaired as are many seniors and of course, any age therefore we can’t drive cars. But there are many who would prefer to take good rapid transit as an alternative to more cars which harm the environment as well as sometimes health. Good lighting, covered areas, and stops convenient to where citizens need them to be like downtown Summerville Hutchinson Square are imperative.Not only do counties need to offer good schools, parks, libraries, housing but they also need to offer good, adequate transit.

  3. Marvin Pendavis and JA Moore introduced a bill in the SC State legislature requiring governments to make findings about transit access when building now projects. If they couldn't locate on or reasonably near a transit line, they had to publish a finding about why they chose that location anyway. It's still in committee. Here is a list of all the bills filed to make transit work better in SC. https://bfltransit.blogspot.com/2019/02/transit-legislation-in-sc-update.html


  4.  A rapid transit bus system that can make the trip from Charleston to Summerville in 59 minutes must be accomplished. I've moved here from a suburb of Philadelphia PA and what we have here is shameful. I have a reliable car, but if I could get to Charleston from Summerville on the bus in 59 minutes, I would take the bus. My parents would take the bus. The ability to get to the beach from here would greatly improve tourism without overwhelming the already limited parking at Folly Beach.
    However, these plans need to include Sangaree. With the addition of Nexton, the traffic down Main Street to Sangaree is horrendous. It can take a half hour to get to downtown Summerville and it's only a few miles away.
    There is absolutely no reason that Charleston, which depends almost completely on tourism, shouldn't have a reliable transit system in the city and to the surrounding areas. Tourists would certainly take the bus to get around the city and to explore Summerville. Tourists who come to our area by plane, should not have to rent a car and try to navigate our clogged streets. A reliable bus service would be a huge draw for tourists. We always look for reliable bus service when we travel, as it makes traveling easier.
    I hope you do the right thing and make this service fast, reliable and accessible.