Cleveland bus rapid transit (copy) (copy)

The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Government is looking into ways transit can be expanded to address growing population and development. Cleveland's bus rapid transit system is serving as a model for a Charleston mass transit line that will connect Summerville and the peninsula. File/Center for Neighborhood Technology/Wikimedia

As population and development in the tri-county region increases, governments are looking for ways to create a rapid transit system that makes sense through 2040.

The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments will hold an open house Wednesday seeking community feedback as part of an analysis of high-capacity rapid transit alternatives.

COG began crafting a Regional Transit Framework Plan in late 2017. The goal is to identify priority corridors and modes of transportation in the tri-county area.

Fourteen potential corridors evolved — almost all ending in downtown Charleston — spanning as far north as Moncks Corner and as far south as Folly Beach.

Examples of high-capacity rapid transit include light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit and express buses. The project's lead, Sharon Hollis, noted that a bus rapid transit model would utilize funds more efficiently than a rail system.

"More than likely, bus rapid transit would stand out above rail transit, but that’s what we want to hear from the public," Hollis said.

A full bus rapid transit system usually includes a lane dedicated to buses, which allow them to maneuver without being impeded by normal car traffic.

Since the Charleston peninsula has limited room for road expansion, Hollis said the team could explore potential traffic signaling that prioritizes buses and improves their speed relative to cars on the same route. 

Hollis noted a benefit of BRT is the ability to deviate from the designated route if any complications arise.

CARTA board Chairman Mike Seekings said the capability for the signal technology exists and that even with a land-starved peninsula it's very possible. 

The COG's separate Lowcountry Rapid Transit plan, which has already been proposed and would connect Summerville to the peninsula, also uses a BRT model. It has not been announced how far south the bus-specific lanes would give way to mixed traffic.

The separate project would take priority in terms of time over the Regional Transit Framework Plan. Construction on the LRT is projected to start in 2023, which Seekings said was a back-end date.

Seekings said beyond the geographical requirements, the framework for the RTFP would need to address public needs like internet service.

“Transit has to be cool for people to use it and that’s our challenge,” he said.

Hollis said they haven't determined how other transit agencies would be involved since some of the corridors identified exist outside the CARTA's usual service area. She said ridership analysis wont be conducted until they've narrowed the list of priority corridors.

The public open house will be from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday at Charleston Southern University, 9200 University Boulevard in North Charleston

Reach Jesse Naranjo at 843-937-5764 or on Twitter @jesselnaranjo.