Charleston hiring tourism officers, bringing in transportation consultant

By Ashley Barker
Published June 18, 2014

The city of Charleston is enlisting outside help to better enforce tourism regulations and control traffic on the peninsula.

Three new tourism enforcement officers will be hired by the city, according to planning director Tim Keane. They’ll be part of the Livability Division within the Department of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability.

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Tourism enforcement officers are expected to implement rules related to carriage routes, bike taxi restrictions and bus parking.

“They’ll be patrolling weekdays, weekends and evenings on foot, bicycle and vehicle,” Keane said during a tourism management forum hosted by city leaders last week.

Mayor Joe Riley asked a committee led by Historic Charleston Foundation CEO Katherine Robinson to modernize the city’s Tourism Management Plan, which was most recently updated in 1998. The committee is scheduled to finish its work by the end of the year and present recommendations to the tourism commission and City Council in early 2015, according to Robinson.

Two public hearings have been held, and Keane said the committee has already begun implementing ideas brought up by citizens. City Council recently enacted a moratorium on certificates of appropriateness for new tour vehicles and new special events. Golf carts used for shuttling purposes are also now prohibited, Keane said.

To help deal with traffic issues, Historic Charleston Foundation and the city are partnering to bring Gabe Klein, a former transportation director for Chicago and Washington, D.C., to Charleston this summer as a consultant to develop a transportation strategy.

“We have 18th- and 19th-century streets in Charleston; that’s all we’re going to have, 18th- and 19th-century streets in downtown Charleston, so it makes it a big challenge in a growing city and region to handle transportation,” Keane told residents. “We think that the priority — and Gabe is going to help us through this with you — is that you have to drive less. If you live downtown, more and more people can drive less and more and more people can live without a car.”

He said dramatically better public transportation that residents and visitors happily choose to use is needed, along with much better bike facilities and safer intersections and sidewalks for pedestrians.

“The hope is you won’t need to get in your car,” Keane said.

The committee is now finished receiving public input and has broken into subcommittees — on mobility and transportation, tourism management and enforcement, special events, visitor orientation, and quality of life — to plan recommendations to give the city.

Keane said the common themes being discussed include tourism growth, better enforcement, better communication, remote parking and shuttles for tourists, resident parking and more public restrooms.

Reach staff writer Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker on Twitter.

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