Cleveland bus rapid transit (copy)

Cleveland's bus rapid transit system is serving as a model for a Charleston mass transit line that will connect Summerville and the peninsula. (Center for Neighborhood Technology/Wikimedia)

The effort to bring bus rapid transit to Charleston cleared one hurdle when Charleston County voters decided in November to fund it with the new half-cent sales tax.

The campaign to prove its value is far from over.

The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments has convened a Lowcountry Rapid Transit Advocacy Committee, a group of about a dozen business owners, commercial developers and other private sector leaders across the region to promote the new mass transit system as good for business.

The transportation project, intended to provide an alternative to Interstate 26, will connect Summerville to downtown Charleston through a bus-only corridor along Rivers Avenue.

COG and the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority have begun the lengthy process of seeking about $200 million in federal matching funds. 

In the meantime, the advocacy committee aims to build support in the local business community for the new system. 

"We’ve seen a lot of support from elected leaders for mass transit. I think residents in the region are certainly ready to have world-class mass transit, so now the private sector is where we’re really looking to engage and garner support," said CARTA spokesman Daniel Brock.

Chaired by Steve Dudash, a land-use planner with Thomas & Hutton, the committee has split into three focus groups to explore: potential transit-oriented developments along the BRT line; public-private partnerships that support mass transit; and targeted outreach efforts to illustrate the economic benefits of the new system.

Dudash said other cities with new BRT systems have recently seen growth and redevelopment emerge along their routes.

Cleveland's HealthLine, the BRT system Charleston officials have seen as a model, generated about $115 in economic development for every dollar spent on building it, according to a 2013 study by the Institute for Transportation & Development Technology.

"I want to make sure that we’re proactive in finding the best ways to do that here," he said.

Brock said the committee will help local authorities direct new developments to areas along the BRT's path.

"That cuts down on traffic and congestion, which is the ultimate goal of all of this," he said. "If they're able to tilt their development dollars in a way that benefits mass transit, then it's a win-win for everyone."

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Reach Abigail Darlington at 843-937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.

Abigail Darlington is a local government reporter focusing primarily on the City of Charleston. She previously covered local arts & entertainment, technology, innovation, tourism and retail for the Post and Courier.

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