CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - TJ Snipes works in downtown Charleston. He parks along Ann Street and then walks for about 30 minutes to get to work to avoid a hefty parking fee.
“It’s a big pain,” Snipes said. “Most of us have to park at the Battery and walk about 10 to 20 minutes to where we work and now with the six-hour limit, a lot of us are here eight hours or more a day and we’re getting towed and don’t have anywhere to park. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck like this it’s just not working out.”
As part of the City of Charleston’s renovation of the Low Battery Sea Wall project, parking was reduced from free parking to six-hour parking. The plans have been in the works for more than a year, but the city’s traffic team just placed the signage about three weeks ago and with signage comes enforcement.
City Council Member Mike Seekings says the changes allow more people to use those parking spots.
“We had people who were parking there not just for days, weeks or months at a time but in some instances, two or three months at a time,” Seekings said. “That became a problem for a number of different reasons – public safety being the principal reason, but just the whole idea of having access to the waterfront. We in Charleston want people to have that access.”
The alternative to finding a free spot and walking to work is a parking garage, but that comes at a cost of at least $18 a day. Snipes says there needs to be an alternative for people working downtown.
“Maybe even motor scooters, we could bring those in,” Snipes said. “We just need a way to get to work because what’s going on now . . . we’re having staff shortages because people are quitting. They’re spending $250 a week just in parking.”
Parking for employees is not a new problem.
In 2018, the city and CARTA launched Hospitality On Peninsula. The HOP was a park-and-ride service that cost $5 a day and shuttled people around downtown. The service was shut down because of COVID-19 until further notice, but there is appetite to bring it back.
Daniel Brock is a regional strategist for the Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments responsible for CARTA. He says there are two main issues holding back the HOP service.
He says they need a place to launch it, i.e., a parking lot for riders to put their cars. The lot where the service started in 2018 is now the Charleston Tech Center. Brock says then have property near the Joseph Floyd Manor that could serve as a new launching point, but it would need to be developed.
The other issue is the 10 p.m. parking meters. Brock says as long as the city’s parking meters stop at 6 p.m., there won’t be enough demand for the HOP to keep it running. Right now people can park in the heart of downtown starting at 4 p.m., pay for two hours of parking and then stay in that same parking space for free all night.
Snipes says the city need to get the HOP up and running again before the parking situation worsens.
“A lot of people live in West Ashely and places like that,” Snipes said. “This [downtown] is where the money is at. They’ll start to see restaurants not being able to open because they don’t have the staff because nobody has anywhere to park.”
Both the city and CARTA have said they want to see the HOP start up again, but there’s no timeline on when that might happen.
The city does offer some parking locations with reduced rates targeted at helping downtown employees:
Discounted Evening Rates
- 93 Queen Street: $7 flat rate fee after 3 p.m.; $5 flat rate fee after 5 p.m.
- East Bay/Prioleau: $5 flat rate fee after 5 p.m.
- Majestic: $5 flat rate fee after 5 p.m.
- Visitor’s Center Garage Only: $7 flat rate fee after 3 p.m.; $5 flat rate fee after 5 p.m.
- Discounted Evening Rates end at 3:00 AM at which time regular garage rates take effect.
Find more information here: https://www.charleston-sc.gov/1025/Parking-Information
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