By William Hamilton
Executive Director, Best Friends of Lowcountry Transit- www.bfltransit.com
Resident- 32 Sowell St., Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
Ph. (843) 870-5299 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Presented to Mt. Pleasant Town Council on March 14, 2023.
At the end of his remarks, William Hamilton offered to restore and donate his late wife Julia's beloved 1920 mahogany Ivers and Pond Piano to the new art center. Julia was a stalwart supporter of music East of the Cooper, founding and performing with I'Onissimo! for ten years and playing 1st violin in the Mt. Pleasant orchestra. Julia played the large parlor grand instrument for 50 years.
I am the Executive Director of Best Friends of Lowcoutry Transit and run our East Cooper Hungryneck Straphangers unit. I have been riding public transit to and from the locations mentioned in this memo since 1978. I am a resident of I’On and take the bus into Charleston several times a week. Our organization is considered one of the leading Transit advocacy groups in the Southeastern US and the Town/Transit Teamwork effort which achieved a 308% increase in transit ridership in Mt. Pleasant between 2007 and 2012 is still a subject of national study today. Mount Pleasant wrote the book on suburban transit ridership development.
On the Reliable #40 Bus Line
East Cooper Plaza is currently on the reliable Mt. Pleasant #4O CARTA Bus line with stops right in front of the Plaza on it’s West end and in front of Sesame Burger just to the north, where two restaurants provide a pleasant place to wait for the bus and perhaps contribute to local economic activity and town tax revenue by enjoying a drink or meal. These restaurants and businesses also provide rain shelter while waiting. Transit riders don’t have the concerns about DUIs that car drivers have. While you can’t ride visibly inebriated, the professional drivers of CARTA, many with million mile perfect safety records are our designated drivers. The BP station also has snacks and a lighted place to wait out of the rain near the outbound stop.
For trips inbound to Charleston, there is a CARTA bus stop with a bench in front of First Reliance Bank, pm the frontage road across from CVS.. This inbound stop is also near Wood and Grain, Second State Coffee and several other pleasant places to eat or find a snack while waiting. The bank drive through provides rain shelter at this location. While the inbound stop could be improved by a shelter and the necessary space is available, it’s a perfectly acceptable all weather stop now.
Since inbound transit rides to Charleston require crossing Johnnie Dodds Blvd. Best Friends of Lowcountry Transit would recommend improved cross walk striping. Pedestrian push buttons are already in place and functional. Access to and from all directions is already fully sidewalked. The East Cooper Plaza location is also within walkable distance of over 1500 residences.
Student and Youth Visitors
Image, Right, Children planning future transit system for the Lowcountry.
Since this facility will have many student and youth visitors, who cannot drive access to transit provides a major opportunity to reduce traffic congestion. Parents or those assisting transportation challenged adults often make four trips between their origin point and the location of activity. One to take the young person to their practice or other activity, another to return to home or work, another to pick the child up and finally another to return child and parent home or elsewhere. For students without a parent or guardian driver, youth cultural and civic opportunities are often inaccessible. Transit access is also of great value to Senior Citizens and the Differently Abled. Everyone who reaches this center buys tickets, fills seats and gains value for us all.
While it is a bit of a walk. The Coleman Blvd. #41 bus also has stops at extreme walkable distance of this location on Coleman Blvd. and Pelzer and Houston Northcutt, near town hall.
The East Cooper Plaza location is also the closest available place for an arts center which could draw patronage from visitors staying at the Ravenel Gateway Hotels, all of which have very short, reliable transit links between Hotels and the Plaza. It is also an easy ride from the transit hub at the Visitor’s Center Parking Garage downtown in Old Charleston, where CARTA lines link to the entire region and planned Lowcountry Rapid Transit System. Free DASH buses there bring tourists from throughout the city to make connections. If plays and concerts at our arts center are to succeed, strong transit is needed to fill seats. It’s also critical to provide access to the elderly and disabled.
If the town wants to take on a very ambitious cultural effort, this East Cooper Plaza Location, Town Hall, the Farmer’s Market, the I’On Mount Pleasant Amphitheater and Waterfront Park could all be effectively linked by a combination of existing CARTA public transit and town provided shuttles similar to that operated for the Blessing of the Fleet. Mt. Pleasant could go big with the sort of locally grounded cultural festival the City of Charleston, which has lost most of it’s citizen performers can no longer provide. Piccolo Spoleto was once a feast of local talent. Mt. Pleasant could take over that tradition with our own talent and voices, while Old Charleston services tourists with whatever out of town talent it chooses to market.
I attended a wonderful, but quite chilly Christmas concert on the lawn of Town Hall last December. The holidays remain hard on my because my beloved wife Julia, who filled our holidays with music as the leader of the I’Onissimo! Chamber Music organization was an accomplished violinist. The silence of the three Christmases since her death always burdens my heart. Hearing the music we shared performed by a local group of musicians and singers I knew filled by eyes with tears and drained away, for a precious hour, some of the grief and loss which arises from the silence of her piano and violin when Christmas trees glow. I remain grateful for that hour. I was able to find a ride with friends when holiday weekend surge pricing for Uber would have made the trips to and from town hall cost over sixty dollars.
Best Friends of Lowcountry Transit is already preparing a major summer 2023 effort called Bus Pirates, Queen Renee and her ladies in Raiding to support and build ridership on this summer’s Beach Reach Shuttle. We would be happy to reinvigorate our historically successful teamwork effort with the town to supercharge a cultural center at East Cooper Plaza with transit enabled access. We have ten years of experience producing cultural events in the I’On Community and 20 years of experience working to build transit ridership in Mount Pleasant. We can do this cheaply and effectively. We eager to help.
We’ll see you on the Bus.
Together, We Go Forward