Workers who commute to downtown Charleston and pay pricey fees to park could have another option as soon as next month.
While the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments evaluates potential sites for a regional park-and-ride service, the city of Charleston and Charleston County have identified some temporary parking lots to get the new shuttle system running on the peninsula possibly by late January.
The city will allow the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority to use the existing parking lot on a city-owned property at 999 Morrison Drive for about a year until the Charleston Digital Corridor is ready to break ground on its new headquarters there.
Charleston County also is working out an agreement to lease some parking spots on its property next door at 997 Morrison Drive.
Together, the adjacent lots on the upper peninsula will offer about 150-200 parking spaces. The site would have a designated bus route with stops in busy commercial areas such as King and East Bay streets, where parking is especially limited.
City Councilman Mike Seekings, who is chairman of CARTA, said the system is primarily aimed at commuters who work in downtown's hospitality industries.
The peninsula has 345 food and beverage establishments and 45 hotels, employing a combined 7,700 people, according to the College of Charleston.
A survey conducted by the college earlier this year found that most of those workers drive to their jobs and pay up to $100 a month to park.
"We are beginning this program because of an identified need on the peninsula, particularly in the hospitality industry," Seekings said. "But we recognize that there’s need other places, too."
The initial hours of operation would align with the typical hospitality employee's schedule — early in the morning and late at night.
Commuters who park at the lot and take the shuttle would likely be charged about $5, which they would pay at the parking lot, Seekings said, but the fee has not been finalized yet. Five dollars a day equals the $100 a month that workers have already been paying, according to the survey.
"This is an initial pilot program that we expect to be popular, and one of the problems we're going to have is not enough capacity for the demand," he said. "We’re going to be vigilant in identifying other sites both on and off the peninsula, and the sites that will be permanent."