SHOULD CHARLESTON, SC, INVEST IN A COMMUTER RAIL SYSTEM?

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#1
I am a resident of Charleston since 1970. For several years, I have attempted to attract interest in a commuter rail system for the Charleston, SC, ("Tri-county") region. My efforts have failed. After sending more than 20 messages to 200 + persons and agencies, I have had no replies. I represent no one: no group, movement, cause, foundation, committee, etc. I am backed buy no one. I have done this exclusively via email, without added expenses. I am retired and unemployed. I truly believe that, without a great enhancement in mass transit, this area could suffer a massive economic slump. Yet, no one I write will so much as acknowledge my messages, as good, bad or indifferent. A list of addressees is at the end of some of the below messages. I also contacted every TV, radio station and newspaper in the area. I spoke with a newspaper reporter outside of the area and was told the reason is the lack of money. I understand this. S.C. is a "poor state", maybe the poorest between Virgina and Texas. Still, I believe a system could be built with ambition and determination, but, most of all, a realization that, without a major improvement breakthrough in mass transit, this tri-county region is likely to be doomed by its success. These points are discussed in the copies of messages I have sent over the past six months. I would appreciate comments as to how I might improve my message to "turn heads" and be "on the radar" of the person(s) in my area who could assist me in bringing the issues to the attention of the approx. 500,000 residents who live and work here. Thank you.
 
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#2


A COMMUTER RAIL SOLUTION FOR
THE CHARLESTON TRI-COUNTY REGION


====================================================

How was your commute today?



February 4, 2018
A commuter rail system is needed. It would run from Charleston through N. Charleston and Summerville to St. George. A second branch would run from N. Charleston through Goose Creek to Moncks Corner. It will likely cost between $600 million and $1 billion and require 15 to years to finish. What is the alternative? Bus relief is temporary. Buses couldn't satisfy rider needs if they were lined up all the way to Summerville. A rail car carries 80 passengers. A bus carries 40 passengers. Ten rail cars carry as many passengers as 20 buses, and cheaper, using economy of scale. More buses mean more drivers, more maintenance, more storage; commuter trains use the same crew and fuel no matter how many cars they pull. Commuter rail avoids gridlock. Passengers enjoy their ride as they are not concerned with driving or arriving late.

There has been much talk about the conditions of S.C. highways: their detioriation, lack of funds to repair or improve, etc. Commuter rail can solve this problem. The more drivers and passengers that ride commuter rail, the fewer cars that remain on roads in the area of Charleston's area commuter rail system. The fewer cars that drive on these roads, the less wear and tear on the road's condition; the less wear and tear, the less money needed to make repairs; the less money needed for repairs, the more money that is saved. Does any of this make sense? It makes sense to me; it makes enormous sense. Unfortunately, CARTA's express bus cannot be a part of the equation to reduce damage to our highways; if anything, those buses will make it worse. CARTA buses carrying heavier loads will cause greater stress on the road surface; they will exacerbate the damage that already exists. Only commuter rail can move greater numbers of people cheaper, safer, more economically and also reduce cracks, holes and large pieces of asphalt from coming loose and flying into the windows of cars or laying in the road, waiting for cars to strike these fragments, and cause drivers of cars to lose control, causing accidents, injury, even death.

What will happen to the Charleston area without improvements in traffic flow? Companies won't locate here if their employees cannot move between home and work easily; tourists won't visit here if they cannot move between their hotels and tourist stops. Our reputation with travel booking agencies will suffer because tourists will leave negative comments with booking agents, Facebook pages, local govt. offices, etc. Retirees won’t locate here if they cannot drive between home, doctors' offices and hospitals. What is the first question people ask each other after arrival? "How was the traffic?” No other form of transportation can handle large numbers of people as safely, cheaply and efficiently as commuter rail.

Commuter rail can serve as a means of removing large numbers of people from our region in the event of natural or man-made disasters. In an emergency, commuter rail would perform as well or better than means we traditionally have available: cars, buses and aircraft. Under routine conditions, commuter rail can move hundreds of riders in a brief, economical, feasible manner; under emergency situations, re-location becomes even more vital and speed is essential..

This is where commuter rail can be an integral element in evacuating a local population to distant and safer locations; the plan would offer transit to riders from Charleston to N. Charleston, Summerville and terminate in St. George; a branch line would terminate in Moncks Corner; but, when emergency conditions dictate, special permission could be sought and granted from the local railroads to re-locate riders beyond the limits of the commuter rail system as originally planned. From St. George, commuter rail would be granted the right-of-way to transport riders to Columbia; they could be transported to local motels, schools, etc., for temporary shelter. During emergency conditions, fares would be waived for transportation of all riders to and from emergency evacuation points. Beyond Moncks Corner, riders could be transported to the first available locale that could accept a large number of persons requiring emergency shelter. As commuter rail resources are maintained here in the Charleston area, it would be easier to gather and schedule elements and personnel in this system to support evacuees than for the railroads to do it themselves, as they must re-route trains to this area, whereas our commuter rail units are already positioned locally and are always in readiness to support emergency needs. Charleston has experienced extreme weather this winter. How would commuter rail be better than driving on roads in this weather? Commuter rail: Would not lose control on "black ice"; would not "jackknife" in the midst of heavy traffic; would carry more riders than buses or cars; would not be delayed due to rain, ice or snow; would reduce accidents, as more people would be riding, not driving.

The more situations in which commuter rail can serve the communities in the Charleston area, the more apparent it becomes that commuter rail is the one viable, durable means of moving people that is available and ready to move large numbers of people, whether under routine or emergency conditions. Commuter rail can transport riders to the airport, to the N Charleston convention center; it would reduce parking congestion and expedite travel time for concerts, airline travel, etc...

The issue of traffic flow in Charleston is not a concern for just one area of the Lowcountry. What affects one part of our region affects all of us. Our economy is interwoven among every home, every business, every aspect of the Tri-county region. Traffic concerns everyone, and not merely those who drive to work in a car or work on a delivery truck. We are all part of what makes the Lowcountry our home. We must all realize our vested interests in making our homes and offices easy to access, whether to work in, recreate, travel as tourists, or just pass through on the way to somewhere else. We face not only a challenge but an obligation to insure our roadways are free to drive through. Clogged roads are as fatal to communities as clogged arteries are fatal to humans. The sure cure is a commuter rail system. It will improve traffic flow and reduce gridlock. It will expedite riders to destinations faster, cheaper and safer than any other mode. Building it will be expensive, long in completion and fraught with obstacles, but it is the only system that will endure over the long-term after it is inaugurated. Commuter trains are flexible in scheduling, highest in passenger capacity and much cheaper on a cost-per-mile basis. No other mode of transit approaches the effectiveness of commuter rail by any comparison.

IF YOU THINK IMPROVEMENTS ARE EXPENSIVE, TRY INDIFFERENCE!




NOTE: This message has been sent to the following govt. agencies and other offices. (With few lackluster replies):
County Offices
Berkeley
Charleston
Dorchester
City Offices
Charleston
N Charleston
Summerville
St. George
Goose Creek
Moncks Corner
State Offices
*Office of the Governor
Hon. Henry D. McMaster
*S.C. Dept. of Trans. Commission
*S.C. Senate:
Committee on Labor, Industry and Commerce
Committee on Transportation
*S.C. House:
Committee on Labor, Industry and Commerce
*S.C. Senators and House members for the Charleston Tri-County Region
Federal Offices
*U.S. Senate
Hon. Lindsey Graham
Hon. Tim Scott
*U.S. House
Hon. Mark Sanford
Other
*CARTA
*BCD-COG


** IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE, THE TRI-COUNTY AREA MAY WELL DROWN IN AN OVERWHELMING FLOW OF ECONOMIC SUCCESS. THE LACK OF INTEREST IN A COMPREHENSIVE AND ALL-ENCOMPASSING MASS TRANSIT REMEDY IS STUNNING AND DISAPPOINTING. WHY THIS IS SO BOGGLES THE MIND. THIS REGION NEEDS HELP AND NEEDS IT NOW. IF THE SOLUTION ISN'T A COMMUTER RAIL SYSTEM, IT MUST BE SOMETHING ELSE, BUT TIME IS NOT ON OUR SIDE. AS THE TRI-COUNTY REGION GOES, SO GOES THE STATE. WHOMEVER IS SUCCESSFUL IN SUCH AN UNDERTAKING CAN RIGHTFULLY TAKE CREDIT, BUT IF WE FAIL, THE FLAW AND THE FAULT WILL FALL ON ALL OF US. WE WILL ALL HAVE BLOOD ON OUR HANDS, FOR WE HAD THE RESOURCES AND THE CLEAR OPPORTUNITY TO RIGHT THIS SHORTCOMING; INSTEAD WE WALKED AWAY FROM IT, WITH EXCUSES LIKE, "WELL, IT'S NOT MY PROBLEM, SEND IT DOWN THE HALL TO 'WHAT'S-HIS-NAME'S OFFICE' " WHO MIGHT OFFER SUCH AN EXCUSE? WHO WILL HEAR IT? COULD IT BE SOMEONE YOU KNOW?
 
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#3

A COMMUTER RAIL SOLUTION FOR THE
CHARLESTON TRI-COUNTY REGION

========================================================================================================
FUNDING AND REVENUE MANAGEMENT OF A COMMUTER RAIL SYSTEM
FUNDING


Funding of transit systems applies the same methodology used for over a hundred years, and which works today. Here are six major ways to fund transit projects to offset a proposed budgeting outlay for the total system. 1) Sale of Bonds, issued by the transit authority and/or other state agencies. 2) Grants, applied for by the transit authority and awarded by state and federal agencies. 3) Low-interest loans, applied for by the transit authority and financed by state and federal agencies. 4) Passenger revenue, upon inauguration of the system. 5) Donations, which can take many forms: Direct cash, to defray the cost of operating expenses. Real estate; to enable the system to operate on a right-of-way and to store eqpt. when not needed. Rolling stock, the "wheels" of the system. Transit carriages could be donated by other systems which have no further need for them. These units would be evaluated for restoration and other customization as necessary. Carriage providers could be solicited for contributions of new units to the system, which would be tax-deductible.
6) Volunteerism would be encouraged among various local and distant providers in skilled, mechanical and professional fields, such as: Design, Consultation, Civil/Mechanical/Electrical Engineering, Architecture, Surveying, Legal services and other professions. These contributions would offset overall budgeting concerns and be tax-deductible. Other areas would also be added as "contributory professions/skills/trades" and be equally eligible for tax-deductible status. Volunteerism could be a major factor in reducing the overall impact of budgetary requirements to support completion of the system. Through volunteering, the total community could become involved by offering services and products gratis. Individual and corporate volunteers/donors would register their fields of expertise in a central system to coordinate needs of the transit project with offers to support those needs, without compensation. A list of volunteers would be compiled regularly for periodic publication. At the inauguration of the system, the complete list would be published through local media. The complete list would also be memorialized on an Appreciation Plaque at the main rail transit station for public viewing. Further interest and pride will result when each train is christened for a community it serves, and would carry the name on the train itself: Charleston, St. George, Moncks Corner, etc. These measures would bring the communities closer in a bonding sense so that everyone would have a personal connection by which they helped the project to become real and which benefits them directly whenever they travel through the Lowcountry.





PASSENGER REVENUE

Upon inauguration, the commuter rail system would incorporate state-of-the-art technology to collect, manage and report to the consumer their personal expenses as tallied by the transit system's information technology unit (IT). Although passengers would be allowed to pay using cash or credit cards, the linchpin of passenger revenue collection ("fares") would be the passcard issued to each passenger, upon request, at no charge. All services available to the rider could be processed at ticketing stations; routine passengers would be encouraged to perform various functions through a website setup for this service. The website would perform many functions: open new accts.; inquire as to the balance on the card (expended and unused funds); transfer funds to a passcard acct. from any financial institution allowing such transfers. Passcards accounts could also be setup to allow recurrence of automated transfers from any account authorized to perform transfers. Passengers would designate which day of the month and the amount of the transfer. The transfer would occur each month, and be reflected on the passenger's website account, as well as a notation to the passenger's source financial account.
… … ...


Certainly, there are numerous concerns not covered in this discussion which must be addressed before serious consideration can begin. This not a perfect plan; it isn't supposed to be. The point is, can we begin to discuss those issues which are more obvious and sensitive to the public interest right now? What can we do now, regardless of whether or not the topic is thoroughly indexed and all angles are known beforehand? Must we know everything about the subject before we can exchange views about "nuts-and-bolts" issues and "pro and con" comments? I think not. We can talk about every "angle" of such a project anywhere and anytime. We need not be bound by getting all the information first before we convene a "public-comment" hearing, seminar, panel, or whatever you call it. We can start with two people and their opinions who are brave enough to express them, without fear or fervor. Are each of you waiting for someone else to make the first move? Or, am I missing something?

IF YOU THINK IMPROVEMENTS ARE EXPENSIVE, TRY INDIFFERENCE!

Before I leave you,
Q: How likely is this project to be successful?
A: ______?_____


Q: How likely was the election of Donald Trump as our president?
A: ______?_____


NOTE: This message has been sent to the following govt. agencies and other offices. (With few lackluster replies):
County Offices
Berkeley
Charleston
Dorchester
City Offices
Charleston
N Charleston
Summerville
St. George
Goose Creek
Moncks Corner
State Offices
*Office of the Governor
Hon. Henry D. McMaster
*S.C. Dept. of Trans. Commission
*S.C. Senate:
Committee on Labor, Industry and Commerce
Committee on Transportation
*S.C. House:
Committee on Labor, Industry and Commerce
*S.C. Senators and House members representing the Charleston Tri-County Region
Federal Offices
*U.S. Senate
Hon. Lindsey Graham
Hon. Tim Scott
*U.S. House
Hon. Mark Sanford
Other
*CARTA
*BCD-COG
 
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#4



A COMMUTER RAIL SOLUTION FOR THE
CHARLESTON TRI-COUNTY REGION


===================================================

the media has reported that the bcd-cog (BERKELEY-CHARLESTON-DORCHESTER COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS) is supporting a bus system between Charleston-Summerville.. I didn't see the details on the bcd-cog website.. im wondering about what persuaded the bcd-cog to "go with" a bus plan?

was it any/some of these factors, or something else entirely?
>> bus maintenance-- engine; tires, body, accident repair;

>> driver expense-- one man per bus; "no-shows" due to sick leave, separation, "personal time" off, etc;

>> maintenance facility-- mechanics, technicians, repair parts, lubricants, hydraulic fluids, garage bays, storage of units in disrepair or not needed.

>> reserved "bus lane"-- occupying one lane of I-26 (it is I-26, right?), which displaces all vehicles normally driving in that lane to "move over" to crowd other lanes, in 2 directions; this places other lanes in gridlock, since I-26 was not designed to handle what it handles now; how will drivers not entitled to drive in the reserved lane respond when they see a lane completely empty when they are sitting in a gridlocked lane, and slowly growing old wondering if/when they will see their families again?

>> I-26 buses disabled due to accidents, breakdowns, road repairs, etc., compounding situations already in a "critical mass" with drivers stuck in horrifically stalled traffic, dealing with hunger pains, overheated engines, nearly empty gas tanks, etc.. so, this is why god invented cell phones, right?

>> buses involved in breakdowns and accidents (pt. 2)-- how bad can it get? buses involved must hold where they are for a repair truck and police, even if no accident occurred; the repair truck must negotiate thru gridlocked traffic and have enough room to maneuver around the disabled bus; in an accident, it gets worse. and depending on whether the bus driver is at fault, even worse than that.. vehicles must be moved or removed, including the bus, if not drivable.. this involves more horrific traffic jams, involving vehicles to be moved to make room for tow trucks, ambulances (if injured are present).. at this point, the media must be notified to advise traffic to avoid the area, and to alert gridlocked drivers as to how late they can expect to be arriving home, or wherever they hoped to be at the end of their drive..

>> inclement weather-- rain, freezing conditions, evacuation orders due to storms, hurricanes, etc., o.k., the governor can reverse all lanes of I-26 to only accept traffic outbound away from Charleston.. that helps, up to a point.. but with the growth of the Charleston lowcountry region, will it make much difference? our greater Charleston population area exceeds 500,000, and shows no signs of slowing.. three or four lanes of traffic on both sides of the road wont help much if what you need is five or six lanes..

>> bus turnover-- driving to/from Summerville daily on I-26 will be hard on buses due to wear/tear from riders and highway conditions.. what will be the replacement factor in repairing and/or replacing buses? how long should buses last? how many will be replaced annually? what are the determinant factors for the limitations in repairing buses in comparison to replacing a worn unit?

certainly there are other reasons for choosing buses over commuter rail, and I could not possibly list them all; I have no experience in transportation, im just an old retired guy who has lived here for almost 50 years and my parents imbued me with a fair measure of common sense..

but, I could be wrong!



p.s. did I neglect to make the point that the above issues would be non-existent or only to a very modest limit with commuter rail?
 
#5


A COMMUTER RAIL SOLUTION FOR THE

CHARLESTON TRI-COUNTY REGION

===================================================



HOW MUCH COMPLACENCY, HOW MUCH INDIFFERENCE, HOW MUCH NEGLECT, MUST WE ENDURE BEFORE SOMEONE STANDS UP TO GIVE A DAMN??

IS THERE NOONE WITH THE COURAGE, THE VOICE, THE ABILITY TO SPEAK AND BE HEARD?

IS THERE NOONE WITH UNDERSTANDING AND FORESIGHT TO ADDRESS WHERE WE WILL END UP WITHOUT A TRULY EFFECTIVE MASS TRANSIT PLAN? MUST WE WATCH AS CARS & TRUCKS FILL THE LANES OF I-26 FROM CHARLESTON TO SUMMERVILLE UNTIL THEY STAGNATE INTO THE GROUND? WILL SOMEONE TAKE THE "BLOOD PRESSURE" OF THE LOWCOUNTRY AND WATCH THE NUMBERS FALL UNTIL OUR ECONOMY IS "UNRESPONSIVE" AND "BEYOND RESCUE"?

AND WHAT WOULD PEOPLE SAY ABOUT CHARLESTON THEN? "IT'S TOO BAD; THEY HAD SUCH PROMISE, SUCH POTENTIAL, BUT THEY PUT THEIR PRIORITIES ELSEWHERE AND THEY CHOKED ON THEIR OWN SUCCESS. THEY IGNORED THE SIGNS THAT WERE EVERYWHERE, BUT THEIR EYES AND EARS WERE CLOSED TO THE REALITY THAT ROADS WILL HANDLE ONLY SO MUCH BEFORE THEY REGURGITATE BACK TO THE SOURCE, CULMINATING IN ECONOMIC RIGOR MORTIS". + R.I.P. CHARLESTON +




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