Transport expert paints picture of much larger Charleston

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Charleston is expected to nearly double in size in the next 15 years. On Wednesday, city leaders turned to larger cities for ideas in handling growth in the Holy City.

Some of the ideas tossed around at the Charleston Museum Wednesday night included putting a stop to building parking garages and creating more green space, as well as investing in bicycles instead of cars.

Live, work, play: that's what Sydney Brand does in downtown Charleston. The only problem is some people believe the Holy City is becoming congestion town. That's why she opted to go from four wheels to two.

"I live in downtown now so it's a lot easier getting around on a bike; it saves gas and it's good exercise too," Brand said.

But without bike lanes, her ride can be dangerous. That's exactly why city officials and the Historic Downtown Foundation brought in Gabe Klein, the former director of transportation in Chicago and Washington.

"How do you balance the needs so that you have happy residents, a booming economy and a mobility plan that takes into account that things are going to change dramatically over the next 10 to 15 years?" he asked the crowd.

Klein is known for transforming metropolitan areas like Washington, D.C. and Chicago into bike friendly, pedestrian friendly, and eco-friendly cities. And with Charleston's population expected to double over the next decade, his guidance could steer downtown Charleston away from a traffic nightmare.

"The question is, how do you manage that growth? Where do you build and where do you allow density?," he asked. "People always ask, 'Should we build parking garages?' Well my answer is no, not unless you want more congestion. There are some important decisions that need to made in planning and then there are some opportunities to pilot some innovative concepts."

Concepts like a bike-friendly city may sound enticing but as Brand found out, a proper place to park her bike is another issue the city needs to address.

Wednesday night's meeting was just one of many that will take place over the next few months. Many people in attendance hope Klein can help city leaders transform the city in a positive way.