Scaling down plans for a new transit hub in North Charleston is reasonable, given financial constraints and neighborhood concerns.
And nearby restaurants or food trucks could make up for the transit center restaurant that won’t be included.
But it’s a huge concern that light rail, if it is constructed in the future, would be unable to use the center. The site of the Amtrak station is not near where light rail is planned to move along Rivers Avenue.
That shortcoming seems particularly glaring in light of an ongoing Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments study of potential mass transit alternatives along Interstate 26 between Summerville and downtown Charleston.
The COG is currently analyzing light rail, commuter rail and bus rapid transit, among other possible options. A final plan should be ready by the end of the year.
Moving forward too quickly with the transportation hub, without considering a future mass transit system, would be a serious oversight.
In 2002, a site on Montague Avenue was purchased, and plans were made for a transit center capable of accommodating light rail along with Amtrak, interstate buses, CARTA buses and cabs.
Money was raised and being spent on the hub when it was discovered that the center would be unable to serve Amtrak, without an expensive revision. So the plan was ditched, and $3.7 million in federal funds were forfeited.
That costly mistake sent CARTA and North Charleston officials scrambling for a substitute site.
Certainly, North Charleston’s plans would be a vast improvement over the dated, unattractive station that Amtrak now uses. A new, attractive facility would provide a much more suitable welcome for residents and visitors arriving by train or bus.
But the area has too long planned for the short term. It is time to look toward the future of transportation, which simply must include more mass transit within the state and the region.
Roads and highways are already crowded, and the area is growing fast.
North Charleston has been assured by CARTA, Amtrak and the Southeastern Stages bus company that the facility will meet their needs for the next 50 years.
And Liberty Hill neighbors appear satisfied with the much smaller center (from 32,000 square feet to 14,217) plus the promise of city help with revitalization.
But building a $14.5 million transit center that might be obsolete in the near term is questionable at best. Or does the decision signal an abandonment of the light rail concept?