There’s something interesting and progressive happening on the other side of the Catawba River and we hope officials and residents on our side are paying attention.
The city of Rock Hill is moving ahead with a plan to create a fleet of electric buses that could be a game-changer in public transportation. The non-polluting buses would offer Wi-Fi and charging stations, which should appeal to millennials and anyone else dependent on their mobile devices, and connect residents around the city with downtown destinations. Oh, and if it comes to fruition, people will ride for free.
What’s not to like?
This is exactly what we need in Fort Mill, Tega Cay and Lake Wylie, where destinations such as brew pubs, restaurants and retail stores seem to multiply daily, but getting to and from is increasingly difficult. We have to wonder how many people think about heading to one of these places, but ultimately decide against it because the thought of dealing with the traffic on S.C. 160 or Charlotte Hwy. is such a turnoff.
And once you get to some of these attractive destinations, parking can also be a problem. Take downtown Fort Mill for instance. It’s a little ironic that for all the revitalization of the Main Street area and the additions that have residents and visitors excited, finding a place to park could take longer than the trip to get there.
Having a public transportation option wouldn’t just be a solution for weary and wary drivers, but could actually help ease congestion on roads in general. The more popular taking the bus gets, the fewer cars on the road for short trips. There’s also an environmental benefit considering the reduction of emissions into the atmosphere. Fewer short car trips could also enhance the longevity of recently improved roads and the new ones coming in the not-too-distant future.
Creating public transportation is a business-friendly move. What could be more so than literally delivering customers to a shop’s front door? Considering all the businesses that serve prepared food and drink, that also means dividends to municipalities that collect hospitality taxes.
For this to work on our side of the river, coordination among the town of Fort Mill, city of Tega Cay and York County is crucial. The buses would have to travel through the “doughnut holes” of unincorporated Fort Mill Township that exist between slices of land inside Fort Mill and Tega Cay municipal limits. Lake Wylie, all of which is unincorporated, depends on York County for all government services. If these three municipalities could work together on a project like this, it could also be the start of a new chapter in intergovernmental relations that is needed to confront other growth issues, such as the impact on public schools.
Last week, Rock Hill took the next step and applied for a federal grant that would finance most of the starter costs of its bus system. Now would be a good time for our local officials to reach out and ask for some guidance from that city and start planning for our own system. Judging from some of the early discussion we initiated on social media, many residents seem enthused about the idea of public transportation. We encourage them to contact their local elected officials and ask them to consider it.
Public transportation is long overdue in our still-growing communities and there’s no time to waste. Let’s get this conversation started and make it a priority for the burgeoning year.