CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The decision to change the Lowcountry Rapid Transit System route to exclude the last few miles came as a shock to both activists and local county council members.
The Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments made the decision to end service in Ladson instead of downtown Summerville two weeks ago.
“I have been under the impression for the last 10 or 12 years that we were going to be the end of a rapid transit system. I found out last week by reading the paper that we had been dropped,” said Dorchester Councilman Larry Hargett. “I am still upset. I don’t like this.”
According to BCDCOG Executive Director Ron Mitchum the decision was made so the project could meet the qualifications for federal dollars.
“I never knew. I sit on the executive committee on the COG and I never heard one word of this,” Hargett said.
Hargett was not the only one who felt blindsided by the move. William Hamilton is the executive director of Best Friends of Lowcountry Transit and says this is a huge step back.
“At no time did anyone ever suggest we are going to abandon taking the transit system to Summerville,” Hamilton said. “This project has been Charleston to Summerville for 30 years.”
The federal grant formula relies heavily on ridership, something Mitchum said Summerville simply does not have right now.
Hamilton says ridership is low, because the system does not exist. He argues, his organization can drive ridership.
“CARTA’s record for building and maintaining ridership is exceptionally poor. Our record as an organization is very good,” Hamilton said. “We tripled ridership in Mount Pleasant. It’s a lot of hard work but we know how to do it.”
Mitchum says the plan is to have local bus routes that can connect to Ladson while more money is secured to add Summerville back to the plan. Hamilton says that is not good enough.
“There are a lot of angry voters in Dorchester County sitting in traffic right now going ‘You promised us a transit system. We voted for it in Charleston County. We have been paying for it in Charleston County for four years and yet now we get excuses’,” Hamilton said.
You can learn more about the current transit plans here.