Most Charleston residents are like residents in other cities: When they want to go someplace, they take the car.
But peninsula Charleston is nothing like other cities, and the automobile-centric mindset here is making less and less sense as the population grows.
The solutions for a city with streets planned hundreds of years ago to accommodate horses and pedestrians will be unlike what has worked in other cities.
At this point, the details are anybody's guess: more buses; resident-only parking areas; no-car zones; better bikeways; and incentives for people to walk, bike or take public transportation.
One tactic used elsewhere is to stop requiring that parking be provided with new construction. If there is no place to park, people will have to find another way to get to work. That seems a bit harsh.
Another approach involves parking meters that raise their rates in real time to ensure that 15 percent of spaces are vacant at any time. Drivers could monitor the rates on their smart phones - but only if they have them.
In her column today, Debra Saunders cites efforts in some areas of downtown San Francisco to limit tourists and their autos. Historic cities throughout Europe - Vienna, Copenhagen, Ghent, Florence and Siena, for example - have put large areas off limits to autos.
It's important to get the conversation in Charleston going now - before the peninsula ends up in gridlock.
And the Historic Charleston Foundation, Charleston Moves and the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority have taken the first step toward finding solutions to a problem that is getting visibly worse with each passing year.
A public forum was held last week to hear from mobility experts and discuss what might, or might not, work in Charleston. About 100 people attended.
Charleston's director of planning, preservation and sustainability, Tim Keane, said that if the peninsula grows as fast as the metro area is projected to grow, 71 percent more cars would use the already crowded streets downtown within 15 years. And, he said, it would take an area the size of 70 football fields to park them all.
Of course that doesn't mean everyone wants such growth for Charleston. Along with mobility, planners should be talking about how many people - locals and visitors - Charleston can accommodate.
Robert Behre, in a recent report, said the city is planning to begin a bike-share program downtown later this year. That's a step in the right direction.
Other indications of progress include bike lanes painted on streets, parking corrals to get bicycles off sidewalks and a planned bike lane on the northbound U.S. Highway 17 drawbridge over the Ashley.
City Council is also examining its laws regarding skateboards and bicycles on city streets and is converting some one-way streets to two-way.
But as William Cogswell, chairman of the HCF board, said, "There is no silver bullet. ... It's not going to be an easy process. There's going to be a lot of trial and error, but the important part of all this process is to try something."
The city has begun a process to update its tourism management plan. Transportation is a key part of that work and should be incorporated in the management plan to the extent possible.
Now is the time to be part of that conversation. How many people can peninsula Charleston be expected to handle. And how should their mobility be managed to maintain and improve the city's livability?
The city has promised to hold a number of public meetings to get input for the new tourism management plan. Speak up - while you still can get there.
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