You know, Christine Wilkinson could have avoided jail, and possibly losing her job, if she'd been able to ride the bus.

But the CARTA executive director was charged with disorderly conduct Tuesday night after trying - twice - to park illegally outside the Market Pavilion Hotel.

It was 9:30 p.m., just after the buses quit running.

There's more than a DASH of irony here.

Now Wilkinson says she just wanted to run in for ice cream (the first time) and meet some friends (the second time) but the police claim she reeked of alcohol, not Cold Stone Creamery.

So CARTA removed her from the director's office and may well fire her.

But when the board meets Friday, they should consider this: It might be better to keep her on and put her new experience to some good use.

See, CARTA could solve downtown's traffic problems, its parking woes and at the same time clear the streets of all those drunks staggering around disturbing residents.

They just need to make bar patrons park in the Neck Area and run a late-night shuttle for them.

They could call this new route SLUR: Shuttling Lushes Uptown Rapidly.

Free ice cream

If you've ever tried - like Wilkinson - to find free after-hours parking in Charleston, you know it can be tough.

That's probably because all the meters are occupied by the cars of those people that city officials say are turning Charleston into Bourbon Street.

This is a problem on many levels.

City planners say it's going to be almost impossible to navigate the peninsula in a few years (or few hours, depending on your perspective). We have to get cars off the road before we run over bikers who apparently don't have to obey traffic signals.

At the same time, our more sober residents ought to be able to come down and enjoy Waterfront Park or the Battery at night without having to park in a garage.

As Wilkinson was trying to avoid.

But DASH and the CARTA buses make their last pick-ups around 8 or 9 p.m. What about all those people who spill out of the bars at 2 a.m. and aren't walking back to the College of Charleston?

They get in their cars and drive. Under the influence.

CARTA could stop all that with SLUR. Just pull up outside the bars, herd 'em in and let them sober up on the long ride to wherever.

Heck, serve them ice cream - Wilkinson would approve.

Now, CARTA has this Tel-A-Ride program already, but that's for people with permanent impairments, not temporary ones. We need a dedicated shuttle for the soused.

This could be a huge money maker for the transit authority, and not only because the police estimate thousands of people might use it nightly.

Think about it: you could charge these folks whatever you want, because they won't remember it the next day.

Ride to Bed?

This is a win-win.

Talk about cleaning up the streets. Downtown residents could get a good night's sleep and the city could stop threatening bar owners with different closing times on new establishments.

Which most food and beverage like about as much as Wilkinson likes $20 valet fees.

We have to do something about the traffic and the carousing, and CARTA could be the answer. New Orleans has a Streetcar Named Desire.

We could at least have a Motorcoach called Despair.

And who better to run it than Wilkinson? After all, her biggest mistake here was simply dropping Mayor Joe Riley's name to the cops.

Hasn't she seen the posters around town that claim the mayor just wants us all to GO TO BED? He's the last person she should have expected to pardon her for late-night shenanigans.

Well, other than Greg Mullen.

So it's up to the CARTA board. There could be serious repercussions if they don't launch SLUR.

After all, city officials could try to use this incident as proof that we need to shut down the bars at 9 p.m.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com