Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Rapid-transit bus system from Summerville to downtown aims to ease traffic

Shuttle scuttlebutt

Posted by Dustin Waters on Wed, Jan 27, 2016 at 12:19 PM

Rapid-transit bus systems are already utilized in cities throughout Washington state and across the country - FLICKR USER SOUNDERBRUCE
  • Flickr user SounderBruce
  • Rapid-transit bus systems are already utilized in cities throughout Washington state and across the country
A new proposal for a rapid-transit bus line from Summerville to the peninsula aims to lighten congestion for commuters on I-26.

After initiating a study to examine the ways in which mobility can be improved along the I-26 corridor, the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments, in partnership with CARTA, TriCounty Link, the S.C. Department of Transportation, and the Federal Transit Administration, has announced a recommended plan for alternate transit connecting Summerville and downtown. The group’s analysis found that a rapid-transit bus line along US 78 and US 52 would be the best solution to the area’s growing traffic problem.

The recommended route would run for approximately 23 miles, starting in Summerville with a series of park-and-ride locations and traveling through North Charleston to a transit hub on the peninsula at Meeting and Line streets. The new bus system would operate like a conventional rail line, and the route’s 18 stations would be spaced one-quarter to two miles apart with a focus on fast travel with limited stops. The plan involves the creation of semi-exclusive bus lanes along almost the entire route, which would generate an estimated 3,800 new daily trips and 1.9 million trips per year.
Rendering of the bus-rapid transit corridor between Summerville and downtown. - I-26 ALT
  • I-26 ALT
  • Rendering of the bus-rapid transit corridor between Summerville and downtown.
The projected initial construction cost of the project is $360 million with an expected annual operating cost of $5.8 million. Those pushing for the new bus system will pursue federal funding from the Federal Transit Administration in the form of a capital investment grant, which will require a partial match of local funds.

“There are a lot of different ways you can fund the local match. We’ve been exploring some of those and vetting them when we talk to different segments of the public,” says Kathryn Basha, planning director with the Council of Governments. “At the last set of meetings, we asked the public what their preference would be. Do they want it to be tax dollars? Do they think it should be a special tax or a tax district? We also gave them the option to not put any money into a transit system, and I don’t think we had any respondents who chose that.”

A capital investment grant from the FTA could fund up to 80 percent of the project’s capital costs, but it is recommended that additional funding strategies be secured in order to compete with other regions for federal money.

Successful strategies in other cities such as Jacksonville, Fla., and Everett, Wash., were analyzed to identify possible funding sources for the Charleston area. The use of funds from a transportation sales tax is one such option that has been successful in other areas. Selling off naming rights for the system is also a recommended source of revenue that usually supports operating expenses. An estimated three- to five-year wait to break ground on the rapid bus transit system is expected once the Charleston area’s plan is finalized and accepted into the application process. Construction of the new route is projected to last two to four years.

“I think the region has started to consider that if we don’t do something now and start to pursue it, we are going to reach the point of saturation in terms of mobility on the highway,” says Basha. “Between that and the port expansion and the new businesses like Boeing and Volvo moving in, everybody kind of knows we are going to continue putting more cars on the road. While we can do lots of things with the highway system, we’ve got to have an alternative. If you think about it, this plan is like having a light rail system, but it’s on tires. So if you get into a situation where you’re further down into the peninsula and you find that you need to continue moving people, you can drive in regular traffic. It’s a little more versatile and affordable.”

According to Basha, the study examined the possibility of utilizing the area’s pre-existing tracks for a commuter rail system, but that plan was never much of an option.

“There really aren’t a lot of unused rail lines. Looking at commuter rail and talking with CSX and Norfolk Southern, they said, ‘We really don’t have any that we aren’t using. The ones that don’t look like we’re really using them, we think with the port expansion, we’ll probably begin using them,’” she says.

While the rapid bus line would do something to alleviate traffic congestion moving into the neck of the peninsula, Basha says the initial corridor could also lead to similar systems catering to commuters in Mt. Pleasant and West Ashley. The alternate transit plan has already earned the support of Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, which he voiced during his state of the city address.

“We are going to need a comprehensive regional transportation and public transit plan. And the good news is that that process is starting to come together,” he said. “By working with our citizens and regional partners, we’ve already seen real progress on several major fronts, from the re-think of Folly Road, to the widening of Clements Ferry, to the I-26 Alt study, which recently recommended a bus rapid transit system from Summerville to Charleston. This kind of close collaboration between and among citizens and jurisdictions is going to be key to solving our traffic problems in the years ahead — and we as a city are committed to doing our part to make it work."

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Citadel offers more details on ‘white pillowcase’ investigation

National Action Network announces list of directives for school

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Jan 26, 2016 at 3:36 PM

Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa and Commandant of Cadets Captain Geno Paluso - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa and Commandant of Cadets Captain Geno Paluso
More details were released Monday afternoon regarding The Citadel’s investigation of controversial photos that surfaced online in December showing cadets wearing white pillowcases that some say resembles Klan attire. Over the course of the investigation, officials say the school uncovered numerous rule violations, although it is believed that the cadets had no ill intent. Seven juniors and seven freshmen have been punished for their involvement with the case.

During the three nights leading up to the evening on which the cadets donned pillowcases, there were other instances of underclass cadets being gathered to dress in costumes and perform Christmas carols during their designated study periods. During a press conference with Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa and Commandant of Cadets Captain Geno Paluso, Citadel staff showed photos similar to those depicting the cadets wearing pillowcases, but these images showed the cadets dressed as elves, reindeer, and other Christmas characters. The cadets were said to be dressed as ghosts to perform “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” which includes the lyrics “there’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of the Christmases long, long ago.” After realizing that the ghost costumes could appear offensive, several upperclass cadets brought the situation to the attention of school administration.

According to the school president, a group of underclassmen refused requests by upperclassmen to dress in costume in one instance on the evening before the controversial photos were taken.

“Tuesday night, they went back and said, ‘We’re not singing. We’ve got to study,’” said Rosa.

Paluso added that the students violated the rules by carrying out skits in their rooms during study periods, and it is against
school policy for cadets to be pressured into inappropriate behavior by upperclassmen

“A freshman absolutely has the ability to say, ‘No, I’m not doing that,’” said Paluso.

Rosa said that although the cadets’ actions were found not to be racially motivated, he was disappointed that some students recognized how the costumes could be perceived as such, yet they failed to stop the skit. Citadel officials say it is this breakdown in peer leadership, along with minor offenses such as cadets participating in unauthorized activities at unauthorized times, that led to the school’s disciplinary actions.

Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa and Commandant of Cadets Captain Geno Paluso revealed additional photos of cadets dressed as Christmas characters - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa and Commandant of Cadets Captain Geno Paluso revealed additional photos of cadets dressed as Christmas characters
As a result of the investigation, 11 cadets will receive on-campus punishments. These include restrictions, confinements, and “tours,” which involve cadets marching with a rifle for 50-minute periods. Citadel regulations limit punishments to 12 hours a week, so some cadets will carry out their tours over the course of several weeks, while punishments for other cadets will continue throughout the semester. Two cadets were suspended for a single semester, and one cadet was dismissed for two semesters.

Paluso would not provide a specific breakdown of the punishments received by each cadet, but he did say that the students receiving suspensions were upperclassmen. School officials added that the cadets’ standing as upperclassmen in a leadership position played a role in their receiving more extreme punishments due to their failure to intervene in a situation that could be construed as offensive.

“Those punishments are a spectrum based off of their level of involvement, not just with this incident and not just because it was in the press, but continued violations of the rules we have to govern the cadet body here at The Citadel,” Paluso said. “In the end, it was extremely poor judgment, violating those rules, as well as bad leadership.”

As a result of the incident, Rosa plans to implement a President’s Task Force on Advancing Diversity and Inclusion led by the school’s Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Council. Rosa said the task force will consist of school staff, faculty, cadets, and representatives from outside of the college, and he hopes to have the program implemented by this fall. According to Rosa, the group’s main goals will be to enhance the school’s curriculum to foster a greater understanding of people from different backgrounds and identify ways in which to increase diversity among the student and staff populations.

Representatives from the National Action Network said that they are pleased with the results of the school’s investigation, and they have designated a team to work alongside Citadel officials to improve race relations for the college across the country. The organization also announced five directives that the school is advised to implement. They include mandatory classes for cadets that detail the complete history of The Citadel, five new scholarships for minority students, the establishment of an annual program to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, an increased involvement with local Title I schools, and the removal of the Confederate flag from the school’s chapel.

“We’ll find out just how sincere The Citadel is,” said the National Action Network’s Rev. Nelson Rivers. “There are many ways they can do better, many ways they can improve the understanding of diversity, commitment, and training, so we’re looking forward to it.” 

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The Agenda: Lawmaker says he's made his point on journo registry; Teck's State of the City; Dem rep. switching for Bernie

Bamberg says he didn't initially give Sanders a "fair shake"

Posted by Sam Spence on Tue, Jan 26, 2016 at 12:11 PM

State Rep. Justin Bamberg announced on Monday that he's switching his endorsement in the Democratic presidential primary from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders. Bamberg is an attorney by trade and represents the family of Walter Scott. Source: P&C

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg will deliver his first State of the City address today at City Hall. Source: Live 5

This week's winter storm has so far claimed the lives of four in S.C. Source: S.C. Radio

A new study ranks South Carolina 45th in terms of economic opportunity and security. Source: The State

News flash: The Republican state representative who was excoriated last week by the media for his plan to register the state's journalists says the reaction was exactly what he expected and that he made his point. S.C. Rep. Mike Pitts will hold a press conference today to discuss those points. Source: AP

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Monday, January 25, 2016

14 Citadel cadets punished for ‘white pillowcase’ incident

Report: Some freshmen unaware costumes could be ‘construed by some as offensive in nature’

Posted by Dustin Waters on Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 12:31 PM

Images depicting Citadel cadets wearing white pillowcases on their heads were released on social media in December - CITADEL MINORITY ALUMNI FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Citadel Minority Alumni Facebook Page
  • Images depicting Citadel cadets wearing white pillowcases on their heads were released on social media in December
The Citadel has announced the findings of the school’s internal investigation following the release of controversial photos depicting cadets w earing white pillowcases on their heads in December. The photos drew national attention with many groups saying the students’ attire was inappropriate and resembled costumes worn by members of the Ku Klux Klan. According to a statement released by the school, 14 cadets have received “punishments ranging from on-campus punishments to dismissal,” which requires a student to spend two semesters away from campus.

“The investigation found that the cadets did not intend to be offensive. However, I am disappointed some recognized how it could be construed as such but didn’t stop it,” said Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa in a press release.

According to the school, several students immediately reported seeing the small group of freshmen in costume, and cadet leaders were looking into the matter when the photos of the cadets were released online by an upperclassman who was in the room. Eight cadets were temporarily suspended following the incident, and seven more were added to the investigation as a result of subsequent interviews with witnesses.

The school’s investigation revealed that the freshmen were directed to report to an upperclassman’s room for several nights after Thanksgiving to sing Christmas carols while dressed in costumes. The school says that the students used the items available to them to dress as “Ghosts of Christmas Past,” and not all the freshmen understood that the costumes could be perceived as offensive. Those cadets who understood that the costumes may be offensive “thought they could easily explain that they were only dressed as ghosts and said they just needed to complete the skit so they could resume studying,” according to the school.

The school’s investigation also found that the papers held by students in the photos were lyrics sheets for the Christmas songs “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” and “Joy to the World.”

“While the skit had no ill intent, it did show poor judgment. It demonstrates that we must integrate an even higher level of diversity education into cadets’ daily activities and into the already extensive leadership and ethics curriculum. We are working on that now,” said Rosa, who as a result of the incident is creating a President’s Task Force on Advancing Diversity and Inclusion, which will be led by the college’s Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Council.

The Citadel has been the focus of increased scrutiny following the release of a report in December that found a widening gap between the graduation rates of white and minority students, growing almost 9 percentage points between 2003 and 2013. The Washington Post also reported that a Citadel basketball recruit asked to be released from his letter of intent due to the photos.

Rosa added, “The bottom line is that the cadets involved now understand that the costumes could be considered offensive and hurtful to many.”

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The Agenda: Panthers are Super Bowl-bound; Record number of SC gun checks; Clinton keeps SC lead

Super Bowl 50 will feature largest age disparity between opposing QBs

Posted by Sam Spence on Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 12:11 PM

  • Flickr user bz3rk

The Carolina Panthers are Super Bowl-bound after a dominating win yesterday against the Arizona Cardinals. The Panthers will take on the Denver Broncos, a contest which includes the largest age difference between two quarterbacks in league history. Cam Newton (26) is 13 years and 48 days younger than Peyton Manning (39). Source: ESPN, Charlotte Observer, SB Nation

New Ethics Commission rules would ban the use of campaign money to pay club membership dues not directly-related to politics. Source: P&C

A fatal incident in South Carolina in December is the latest death reportedly linked to faulty airbag mechanisms recalled across millions of cars nationwide. Source: NYT

Emanuel AME named a new leader over the weekend, with Rev. Dr. Betty Deas Clark becoming pastor, Mother Emanuel's first female leader in the top position. Source: P&C

South Carolina gun buyers and permit applicants submitted more gun checks to federal investigators in December than in any month in history. Source: P&C

The latest S.C. Democratic primary poll shows Bernie Sanders gaining on Hillary Clinton, who remains at 60% support among likely primary voters. Source: YouGov

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