CARTA HOP park-and-ride shuttle (copy)

The HOP ("Hospitality on the Peninsula") bus begins another circuit from the Morrison Drive commuter parking lot on April 20. Folly Beach officials are hoping a similar park-and-ride system could serve the beach. Abigail Darlington/Staff

Getting visitors to the beach is always a challenge, and it's becoming more of a problem as development along the coast continues to speed up. 

While towns battle for ways to balance day-trippers' need for parking with local residents' desires for a quiet community, a few places are looking to other alternatives, like park-and-ride lots where visitors could leave their vehicles and hop on a shuttle to the shore. 

At Folly Beach, city officials are talking to the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority about establishing a new park-and-ride out of the Walmart lot on Folly Road on James Island. 

The lot already functions as a parking spot for commuters using CARTA's express bus to downtown Charleston. Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin said the lot might work best for hospitality industry workers on Folly who are often encouraged not to park in their businesses' lots so that there's enough room for customers. 

Traditional bus routes have been operated on Folly before, with little success. 

"We've tried three times out here, but they just weren't being used," Goodwin said. 

Daniel Brock, a spokesperson for CARTA, said that the idea couldn't be implemented in the near future. One hurdle is that the transit agency would need to obtain buses with waterproof interiors in case beach-goers, who often leave town sandy and damp, use the bus. 

"While additional service to area beaches may be an eventual possibility, it’s not feasible in the immediate future," Brock wrote in an email. "Financially, there is no available funding in the system budget for that sort of expansion."

In Myrtle Beach, city policies that eliminated free parking for day-trippers ignited a firestorm locally when they went into effect in 2016. Earlier this year, Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus floated the idea of creating a unified parking authority in the area, which would include park-and-rides. 

The idea is still being studied by the planning departments of local governments on the Grand Strand. David Schwerd, director of planning for Horry County, said he's seen some successful examples in places like Maryland and Delaware. However, those facilities were much farther from the shore than county residents might want in the Myrtle Beach area.

And, traditionally, visitors coming to the beach for a day aren't willing to haul all their beach items onto public transit. 

"There's definitely a challenge with a day trip to the beach and carrying your cooler and blankets and umbrella and things like that," Schwerd said.

Reach Chloe Johnson at 843-735-9985. Follow her on Twitter @_ChloeAJ.