By Mike Seekings and Ron Mitchum
Charleston County last week approved a $2.1 billion half-cent sales tax referendum that included $600 million for mass transit. The result is an unprecedented win for public transportation in the region and underscores that only an integrated system of roads, transit and bike/pedestrian facilities will help alleviate traffic woes in the Lowcountry.
CARTA executive leadership and its Board of Directors thank Charleston County residents for their “yes” vote and pledge to be excellent, responsible and transparent stewards of these incredible resources while working to build the world-class transit system that our region deserves.
With a bright future ahead, there are a few things that we hope Charleston County residents will keep in mind:
- We’ll be accountable: From Day 1, CARTA will share regular updates as we put the referendum money to use.
- Expect new buses, more reliable service and improved transit amenities: Much of what residents will see will be in the form of new buses, more frequent service and items such as shelters. It won’t all happen overnight – CARTA won’t receive $600 million in a lump sum – but there will be steady, measureable and noticeable improvement in the quality of our equipment and the service that we deliver every day.
- Bus Rapid Transit: Some $250 million of the funds raised will serve as a local match for a Bus Rapid Transit line extending north from downtown Charleston along the Rivers Avenue. This alternative was studied for more than a year and included a massive public involvement component. Now the Charleston area stands poised to move forward with its first dedicated public transit infrastructure.
In the coming weeks and months, CARTA will undertake further in-depth planning while receiving input and feedback from our customers, area businesses and the community at large. Again we say thank you to the residents of Charleston County as public transit in the Lowcountry enters a remarkable new age.
Mike Seekings is Chairman of the CARTA Board of Directors and Ron Mitchum is the CARTA Executive Director.