Nearly 75 percent of workers in Mount Pleasant don’t live here.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Every day, tens of thousands of vehicles stream into town, while a similarly large number head the other way to jobs elsewhere in the region. And most of those commuters – 9 out of 10, according to one recent regional study – are traveling alone.
“The reality is, we’re going to have to learn to use our infrastructure differently, more efficiently, or we’ll never see traffic relief,” said CARTA Board Chairman Mike Seekings.
But what does that mean in affluent Mount Pleasant, where incomes are generally high and a gleaming SUV never seems to be more than a stone’s throw away?
A Transit Plan
Town staff is currently working with the Berkeley- Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments to address just that question through the first-ever Mount Pleasant Transit Plan.
The council hosted an open house at Town Hall in early August, and a recent online survey garnered more than 1,200 responses. The purpose of both was to help identify the transit wants and needs of residents and businesses. The plan is expected to be complete this fall.
“Traditional mass-transit use has historically been lower in Mount Pleasant, which is common in more affluent and lessdense suburban areas,” said BCDCOG principal planner Sharon Hollis. “It wouldn’t be surprising to see recommendations for demand-response ride-share programs or other options we haven’t yet seen in the region come out of this plan.”
Demand-response transportation is often useful in providing effective connections in areas of low-transit ridership. The model features flexible routes and ride-sharing on vehicles smaller than full-size buses, with pickup and drop-off locations based on passenger need.
The Lowcountry Go program, introduced this year by BCDCOG, is already taking steps in that direction. A mobile app available for iPhone and Android allows users to connect with carpools and van pools and offers emergency ride home reimbursement for subscribers, among other features.
“The security of emergency ride home is a big deal for a lot of people,” Hollis said. “It gives them extra confidence that they can get back quickly if an issue arises suddenly.”
In the meantime, buses will continue to roll in Mount Pleasant, where monthly ridership totals about 8,000 on East Cooper routes. CARTA officials don’t foresee any reductions in service on the horizon, and a potential major addition could come in the form of a hospitality-focused line connecting North Charleston to Mount Pleasant and perhaps Isle of Palms.
The issue, as is often the case, comes down to funding. “CARTA works on an extremely limited budget over a large geographic area,” Seekings said. “Our job is to put service where there is a need, while working within our resources. The service-industry connection to Mount Pleasant is apparent, and now it’s time for partners, both private and public, to step up with funding.”
Ultimately, one question could be key to unlocking the Mount Pleasant transit puzzle: What transit route or option, if available, would you ride?
“Public transit is about taking people places conveniently and efficiently,” Seekings said. “If we can do that, whatever the method ends up looking like, we’ll be successful, and the region will benefit.”