BCD Council of Governments lays out plans for mass transit routes, station designs

On Thursday, the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments held a first look at the current plans for the Lowcountry Rapid Transit project. It will be the first dedicated mass transit system in the state.

The reveal included initial routing plans and how stops and stations will be designed along the 23-mile route between Summerville and downtown Charleston. The main bulk of the route will run along Rivers Avenue in North Charleston; the route will also pass four colleges and two medical care centers.

The purpose of the system is to alleviate roadway congestion along Interstate 26.

The remaining stops have yet to be determined, and COG officials said project planners are considering a variety of factors for where to locate them. Once the route is completed, there will be at least 20 different stops.

Currently, the future transit corridor is currently home to 85,000 people, most of whom lack vehicles. Transit planners said more no-car homes are located along the route than throughout the entire tri-county area.

One of the biggest changes that would come to the roads when the Lowcountry Rapid Transit begins construction will be the implementation of a bus-only lane. The lanes would run along the center of current roads and would be exclusive to the rapid transit system; also, buses would travel in both directions.

The transit system would also implement signal prioritization. According to project officials, the buses would be monitored and the signals at the intersections transition at the appropriate times to keep buses operating on a timely schedule. Emergency vehicles could also utilize the signal prioritization, COG officials said.

The design plans for the stops along the route include security cameras and lighting for safety. The stations would also be designed to withstand extreme weather conditions and vandalism.

According to the COG website, aesthetics are also a top goal for the stations, and the suggested design is simple. Project plans additionally include minimizing the number of trees and other plants along the route.

CARTA spokesman Daniel Brock said that the transit system will hopefully be a catalyst for better bus transit around the area. The planners said they also hope the system will boost the local economy and create a more active community.

The cost to use the transit system will most likely be the same as a CARTA fare. The transit system will also be able to carry 40 to 85 people. Each bus will maintain Wi-Fi capability and the routes both pedestrian and cyclist friendly. The buses will also run on alternative fuels and electricity.

COG officials said they estimate the cost of the entire rapid transit system to be $360-$400 million. That amount covers building and operations and an annual cost of $5.9 million. Charleston County’s half-cent sales tax increase is funding at least $250 million of the project price tag.

There are currently plans for the Summerville stop to be in either downtown Summerville or Nexton. The final decision will be made after studies are conducted about which station location would generate the most riders and revenue.

There will be two public meetings: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 20 at Northwoods Mall and 3:30-6:30 p.m. June 25 at the International Longshoremen’s Association.

The meetings will be open to the public and will discuss analysis of route alternatives, architectural branding and station designs.

Online versions of the meeting will be available until July 25 on the Lowcountry Rapid Transit website.