Peninsula Charleston's streets have changed dramatically. More cars are being driven, and more drivers are on their cell phones. More people are looking for elusive parking spaces. More bicycles are being used, to the annoyance of those drivers. More pedestrians can't seem to tell the difference between a red light and a green one. And then there are pedicabs, golf carts and skateboards.
So while Charlestonians are accused of being generally averse to change, they might be open to changing how people get around the Charleston peninsula. They should be.
Mobility expert Gabe Klein predicts that people who live and work on the peninsula will, in the future, be more likely to get around on foot, bicycles and mass transportation than in their own cars.
That would certainly be good for the environment, and might just cool the tempers of those frustrated by traffic and congestion.
Mr. Klein is being paid $10,000 by the city to work, over the next several months, with city officials and the Historic Charleston Foundation to develop a mobility plan. He introduced some ideas to a large crowd at the Charleston Museum Wednesday evening. Those included remote parking for tourists, no new parking garages, bicycle and car sharing, reconfiguring traffic patterns, more and better public transportation, and safer streets.
Charleston, like most U.S. cities, is auto-centric. People drive to work, drive to the store, drive to the golf course and then drive to the filling station so they can drive again the next day. It's convenient, and it's the custom.
Mr. Klein has had success working with the cities of Chicago and Washington, D.C., in their transportation departments. Now he is a visiting fellow at the Urban Land Institute.
His ideas and conclusions will deserve careful consideration when he finishes his consultation in a few months. The city is planning a public meeting to present his concepts and gather feedback.
In addition to his credentials, Mr. Klein gives peninsula residents a reason to be hopeful. He said the first priority must be the quality of life of people who live there. Some Charlestonians say the focus has been too much on tourists and not enough on residents.
Charleston isn't the only place with mobility challenges. A food company polled people in Britain about what they found most annoying. No. 2 was tailgaters. Indeed, of the 100 peeves listed, 16 were related to traffic, automobiles, pedestrians and buses.
Charleston made the transition from horses to trolleys and then to cars.
It's time to transition to more efficient and safe streets that are useful to all.
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