Officials look to create a future with less traffic on James Island

By Stacy

JAMES ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) -- People on James Island complain about the congestion, especially on Folly Road. City officials know it's a problem and they're working on a solution; part of it involves public transportation.

"That has to work better on Folly Road than it does now," city director of planning Tim Keane said of the public transportation on Folly Road.

Keane admitted the traffic on Folly Road has gotten to be too much.

James Island's population has mostly stayed stagnant since the 1980s, he said. But, the road structures are stuck in the past.

"We need to see what changes can be made on each block to make it work better for cars, cyclists, pedestrians and public transportation," Keane said.


The Commuter

Twice a week, an aspiring teacher waits to begin her journey at a bus stop outside the Walmart on Folly Road.

"I usually get [to work] around 1:30 sometimes. And I leave the house at like 11," said Malka Bielsky, of her long commute from James Island to West Ashley.

Her trip can take two hours, she said. Once she gets off the bus, she walks another mile to get to work. She sees an easy solution that could ease her troubles.

"Offer more Folly Road buses. Like as one's leaving from downtown, one's leaving from Folly Road," she said.

But it's not that easy.


CARTA Issues

CARTA's executive director Christine Wilkinson said the transportation authority's budget is maxed out.

"We spend already 95 percent of our budget on operations, so adding services already is tough for us. We can look at increasing services if we have a partner that can help us fund it," she said.

CARTA's budget comes from three main sources, including rider tickets, federal funds via the gas tax and Charleston County's half-cent sales tax funds, she said. Each accounts for about one-third of the Authority's budget.

CARTA could add another bus to the crowded route if it pulled a bus off a different route, she said. But, she doesn't have a bus to spare, she said.


Is change coming?

For now, one bus keeps moving down Folly Road. For riders like Bielsky, it's another long wait and on to the next stop.

The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments approved a $500,000 study Monday. It will look at how to make Folly Road more efficient, Keane said. He saw a lot of room for improvement on Folly Road, Maybank Highway, Harborview Road and other congested areas of the island. That improvement includes potential for more space for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers, as well as improved public transportation options.

The COG study should be completed within the next year, Keane said.

CARTA's Wilkinson said the Authority would be happy to partner with more institutions for funding for more routes. CARTA already partners with the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina to run express routes in to downtown Charleston for school employees.

A referendum would need to approve any new public tax forms of funding, Wilkinson said.

Public transportation is considered a civil right, she said.