Downtown parking study finds that — *gasp* — people want to use and improve public transit

The report is the first downtown parking study in 20 years

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DUSTIN WATERS FILE
  • Dustin Waters file
A new report analyzing the state of downtown parking finds that most people would invest in better public transit on and off the Charleston peninsula to alleviate the city's parking woes.

Of the 3,589 residents, employees, business owners, and visitors that were surveyed, more than 70 percent said they usually commute alone in a car. More than half, however, said they would regularly use public transit as an alternative mode of transportation.

In a separate public workshop, participants were asked to split a metaphorical $100 bill between different resources. Thirty-one percent of the funds, the biggest share, went to improving public transportation.



"There is a strong appetite for enhanced transit service throughout the peninsula," the report notes.

"It's excellent that support and a desire for even more public transit exist among commuters and residents on the peninsula," said Daniel Brock, a spokesman for the Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority.

The study is the first analysis of downtown parking in 20 years. The report was released in full this month by Kimley-Horn, an engineering and planning consulting firm based in Raleigh, N.C. It focuses on portions of the peninsula below Moultrie and Huger streets.

Downtown parking spaces were found to be "heavily skewed toward the private sector," with more than half of the 71,000 total spots on the peninsula being private, off-street spaces.

Certain neighborhoods were also found to be oversaturated with parking permits, far outweighing the number of available spots. Areas like the French Quarter, Radcliffeborough, and Cannonborough-Elliotborough have less parking available than permits issued. In Ansonborough, the percentage of permits per space stands at 247 percent.
A Hospitality-on-Peninsula (HoP) bus. - FILE
  • File
  • A Hospitality-on-Peninsula (HoP) bus.
As part of its recommendations, the report encourages the city to work with CARTA and the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments (BCDCOG) to incentivize ridership and promote services such as park-and-rides, the latest of which opened last year after the City of Charleston doubled the price of metered parking from $1 to $2 an hour.

For a flat fee of $5, riders can park their cars on the Morrison Drive lot and ride the free circular route through the city's busiest tourist sectors.

The state of South Carolina pitches in about $600,000 a year for CARTA, an amount that isn't even enough to fund the Morrison Drive park-and-ride system. Charleston County provides more than a third of CARTA's total $38 million budget through sales tax revenue, but Brock says further investment is needed to match the public's desire for better public transit.

"As population and tourism numbers continue to explode, such public sentiment now has to translate into further funding from elected bodies and investment in the form of public-private partnerships," he said.

Later this month, the BCDCOG is hosting workshops where residents can weigh in on the Lowcountry Rapid Transit project, a proposed series of buses on dedicated lanes stretching from Summerville to downtown Charleston.

The parking study suggests that the city work with employers and stakeholders to subsidize Uber and Lyft rides for people who commute via public transit. That effort could come at a potential cost of $250,000 to $500,000 a year. "Monetizing" the use of public curbs by taxing ride-hailing companies is also noted as a policy consideration.

Charleston City Council will discuss the report's findings at their next meeting on Tues. Jan. 22 at City Hall.

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