Hospitality park-and-riders are happy with service, especially when they don't have to pay 

New solar panels for pay kiosks will be installed this week, CARTA says

click to enlarge The "Hospitality-on-peninsula" park-and-ride opened on April 15. A busted pay kiosk has since allowed riders to use the service without paying the $5 fee

Keely Laughlin

The "Hospitality-on-peninsula" park-and-ride opened on April 15. A busted pay kiosk has since allowed riders to use the service without paying the $5 fee

Mary Gadsden sat in her car with the windows cracked open on a balmy Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m.

The hospitality-aimed park-and-ride, or HOP as the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority has branded it, was only 10 days old, but it held about 57 cars — a third of its capacity — during a time of day known for shift changes in the hospitality industry.

Gadsden lives in Adams Run, an unincorporated community in Charleston County about an hour away from her main job at East Cooper Medical Center in Mt. Pleasant. Every day after her shift at the hospital, she works four hours at the Belmond Charleston Place hotel on King Street performing "turndown service," freshening up the linens while guests are out.

The intricacies of parking downtown used to extend her shifts by up to one hour.

"I got a lot of tickets because I work in a building and my job requires me to be on the floor 24/7," she said. "I can't be running downstairs to put money in the meter. I might as well stay here, pay my $5, and be done with it.

"It's very good," Gadsden says of the HOP. "I'm happy with the service."

The park-and-ride lot at 999 Morrison Dr. officially debuted on April 15, one day before downtown metered parking prices doubled and months after calls for a better approach to the peninsula's parking woes culminated in a 100-person protest outside of a City Council meeting in March.

For $5, customers can park their cars at the lot all day and wait for a HOP shuttle, which stops at the lot every 15 minutes. There are eight stops along the circular route, all strategically chosen to service hospitality workers, though both the lot and the shuttles are open to everyone. One bus rotation can be as short as 10 minutes depending on how many people need to be picked up or dropped off.

More than 2,000 people rode the shuttles in the first two weeks of the service, according to CARTA, and the lot reached a daily high of 359 riders on Fri. May 4.

Many of the park-and-ride's customers thus far have benefited from an unintended free trial as CARTA works out a few kinks in the structure — mainly involving a broken pay kiosk on the main lot. Customers lucky enough to enter the bigger parking lot have been greeted with a waived fee and a parking spot.

click to enlarge Buses are scheduled to stop at the new HOP park-and-ride lot on Morrison Drive every 15 minutes. - CARTA PHOTO
  • CARTA photo
  • Buses are scheduled to stop at the new HOP park-and-ride lot on Morrison Drive every 15 minutes.

One of the shuttle drivers told CP that the pay box began acting up after it rained on the day of the opening.

CARTA said it hoped to install more powerful solar panels on the two pay kiosks last week. The date has since been pushed back to Thurs. May 10.

Craig Shahan, 53, was smoking a cigarette at one of the lot's sheltered stops before hopping on the shuttle for his job at the banquets department of the Charleston Place hotel.

"So far I like it, I like it a lot," he said. "It's a good way to just catch up on things and relax and not worry about paying the meter all day long. They're not charging right now," he said.

Shahan, who moved from Maui about two months ago, says parking downtown is "ridiculous."

"It's a horrible parking situation," he added. "I think, quite honestly, if employers see that this is more beneficial, maybe they can help the city with it."

That's exactly the kind of engagement CARTA is hoping for.

"We are pleased with the usage and growth of the HOP lot, and expect to see the upward trend continue," said CARTA spokesman Daniel Brock in a statement. "The continued success of the HOP lot, and park-and-ride in general, however, will depend on ongoing funding from our partners, including those in the private sector, whose employees are being served."

Hopping off a shuttle after her shift at Khouri Chirophractic & Health Solutions, massage therapist and North Charleston resident Joanna Gable, 35, gushes about the new service after her first time using it.

"The CARTA system is notoriously unreliable so I've never tried it," she said. "I like this option because ... it looks like it's gonna work no matter what. I'm gonna use it as much as I can."


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