Micro-transit may be a solution for Charleston traffic

Micro-transit may be a solution for Charleston traffic
May 20 16:13 2018 Print This Article

Charleston elected officials are squawking about the need for more people to ride the bus in order to reduce traffic congestion. The only problem is, most people don’t want to ride the bus. The CARTA system is inefficient, inconvenient and slow. It can take 90 minutes for a passenger to get from West Ashley to downtown. Let’s look at private sector solutions to our transportation problems – a trending approach called micro-transit.

Micro-transit takes cities away from the fixed-route full-length buses and moves small numbers of passengers from a collection point to a common destination. A large portion of our traffic is created by single-passenger cars headed to a one of the area’s major employers, such as MUSC or Boeing. Ford Motor Company has created a service called Chariot which it is testing in five cities. Ford manufactures 14-seat passenger vans and sells them to major employers. In Columbus, Ohio, JPMorgan Chase uses Chariot to transport 400 workers to its downtown site. Employees pay a fee for the service but no longer have to get stressed out in traffic or pay for parking. The employees meet at a common pick-up point.

Enterprise car rentals has a RideShare program, in which groups of 4-15 employees can share a vehicle at a common meeting point. Van-pooling is another emerging employer-based transportation trend. We have heard lots of concern about the transportation needs of the 7000 downtown hospitality workers. Instead of depending on a government run and financed bus service, why doesn’t the hospitality industry band together and provide on of these micro-transit options for its workers?

For individual passengers who are not connected by workplace or industry, there are a variety of on-demand ride-sharing services available, such as Uber XL and Lyft Plus, which can accommodate multiple passengers at a low fare. Let’s suppose three or four West Ashley patients have an appointment at the VA hospital at about the same time, the private-sector ride-sharing services can connect them and get them there.

I attended a mass transit workshop months ago sponsored by the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments. I spoke to several transportation consultants there who said there are no mass transit systems in cities the size of Charleston which have effective mass transit systems. Mass transportation ridership is down throughout the country. Let’s not pour more money into a system which doesn’t work for the people of the Lowcountry. Let’s promote the private sector concept of micro-transit, which is convenient for commuters, relatively inexpensive and does not require new government-financed infrastructure!