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Carpool to cut down on traffic in Charleston, SC

Posted September 02, 2017 in Articles

Author: Vic Rawl

Transportation and congestion are the top issues facing the citizens of Charleston County; they also affect the surrounding communities for that matter. Major solutions will not come easy and will, no doubt, be costly. So why not tackle the low hanging fruit? Let’s discuss a less expensive alternative that we can start tomorrow, carpooling.

The simplest fix to traffic is to take more cars off the roads. Fewer cars = less congestion. This is feasible for a number of reasons but it will only work if the public and private sector work together. According to the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, the top ten employers in Charleston County employ about 77,000 people: from Joint Base Charleston and MUSC to Boeing and Bosch. Imagine if just one-third of those employees switched to carpooling. We are talking about 20,000 cars off the road on any given day. Sure, hitting those numbers may be a challenge but at the very least it’s worth trying.

Last year, the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Government (BCDCOG) conducted a survey of the 30 largest employers along I-26 and I-526 and found about 90 percent of their 3,000 employees drive a vehicle alone. The good news here is about 25 percent of those surveyed said they would be willing to share a ride through carpooling/vanpooling. The survey also showed those same citizens willing to share a ride cited the need for incentives from their employer and available emergency rides should the need arise.

While we certainly need a partnership with the major employers, technology allows citizens to get on board by themselves. In the coming months, the BCDCOG will unveil a rideshare website and smartphone app. Residents will be able to sign-up and find a ride to work. In most cases, you simply add in your location and destination and the app or website pairs you up with a rider on a similar route. It could be a neighbor around the corner or a co-worker from a different office.

Just like most transportation solutions, we have to weigh the pros and cons. I think most drivers like the convenience and flexibility of commuting to work on their own. Some people may have child care issues or the need to run errands during the day. I get it and understand carpooling isn’t for everyone. But, I would challenge our citizens to try it one or two days a week to start. You may find it’s easy to relax without being behind the wheel and grab a few extra minutes to read or answer a few e-mails. Also, parking might just be a little easier on the peninsula when you have fewer drivers looking for a spot. Another added perk: you won’t spend as much on gas and car maintenance.

Last year, the citizens of Charleston County passed a half-cent sales tax to fund major road projects around the area. We are working on all of them and it will take time as we navigate through a very detailed process. The sales tax will also provide dollars for CARTA and a major mass-transit system. But again this will take time and none of these solutions will happen overnight. In the meantime, let’s make something old new again and hitch a ride to work.

Vic Rawl is chairman of Charleston County Council.

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