7 ways to get around downtown Charleston, South Carolina

By Grace Catlin

Traveling from one point to another in a city can be challenging. In Charleston, South Carolina, there are a few options of transportation, and newcomers may find difficulty maneuvering downtown. In an attempt to save Charleston’s own and visitors from transportation struggles, I made a ranked list. This list has a form of transportation, whether the goal is to get to the destination as fast as possible or enjoy the beauty of Charleston.

1. Walking

It is difficult to deny that the best way to see a city is to walk through it. One can take time to soak in the surrounding atmosphere and create their own path to the destination.

In Charleston, South Carolina, walking is the superior form of transportation on the peninsula. For those who have never traveled to Charleston, the “skyline” consists of church steeples, so when attempting to enjoy the quaint southern architecture, one must truly be in it because it is difficult to see otherwise. Now, walking may sound like a nightmare to someone in a hurry, but Charleston is by no means a fast-paced city. Strolls up and down King Street are encouraged, with some leisurely shopping along the way. Be prepared to slow down the pace and take in the picturesque scenery while visiting. Walking will provide the opportunity to see the city at the speed and degree desired, and in some cases, it may be faster than transportation on wheels.

2. Small Personal Transportation

“What if I am genuinely in a hurry, though?” The answer is a longboard, skateboard, rollerblade, or any personal transportation that is not a bike. Like walking, physical benefits are present while being able to take in the scenery. This option is much faster than walking, allowing for a swift trip to the destination. A personal form of transportation (that is not a bike) is the perfect in-between for navigating Charleston, allowing one to skip all of the traffic that motorized vehicles will be part of while still being faster than walking. Speaking from personal experience for a moment, after living in Charleston for four years, it has become clear that I will be able to get to my destination fastest while riding my longboard. This option would not place as No. 1 because people may have to learn how to ride a longboard, skateboard, rollerblade, etc., and that may be more dangerous than helpful.

3. Biking

Following closely behind personal transportation that is not a bike is, you guessed it, bikes! Bikes are below the other forms of personal transportation for the sole reason that they are not portable. One thing found in all cities are the skeletons of bikes, left clinging to their lock with nothing left to give. The trip may be quick, but the chances of coming back to a bike subjected to theft or vandalism are much greater than when using transportation similar to a skateboard. If a bike seems like the best option personally, consider purchasing one that is foldable so it can come on any adventure.

4. Rideshare

In recent years, using an app such as Uber or Lyft has become available, changing our perspective of transportation. The ability to call and pay for a ride quickly is convenient, but it is essential to consider all negatives. The rides are typically expensive, and it is never sure if the driver will be friendly or the type that turns up the music as soon as you say hello. These companies also drastically increase the emissions output. Finally, they contribute to an increase in traffic and cannot avoid traffic the way some other transportation can. When looking for a form of transportation that is just a phone away, look towards a bike taxi. A less expensive option of transportation priced at $6.00 per person, a bike taxi is a similar but more simple way of navigating the city. Those working as pedalers are typically friendly and full of suggestions for where to go downtown. Passengers can also enjoy Charleston’s beautiful weather and scenery during their ride, where a car may lessen the views. A bike taxi provides more of an experience in the city than an Uber or Lyft. Be warned, though, there is a $10 minimum for a solo passenger!

5. Public Transportation

Sitting comfortably at number five is the CARTA buses. Like the four other forms of transport mentioned above, public transportation is more environmentally friendly than other methods. While still producing greenhouse gasses, the output would be significantly reduced if people collectively chose to use public transit. Being environmentally friendly is important to keep in mind, but that is not the only plus side of using CARTA. It is also reasonably affordable. At $3.50 for a single trip, Charleston’s CARTA buses may be a good solution for those looking to save on transportation. However, the major downfall of most public transport is running behind schedule, and CARTA is no exception. These delays are a minor consequence compared to options further down the list.

6. Driving

It is typical for someone living in a city not to own a car. With the help of public transportation, one can reach most necessities, which contributes to driving being so far down on the list. Concerning more recent events, gas prices have increased, contributing to another reason why driving should not be the first method of transportation to consider in Charleston. Driving in the city has many possible consequences without even considering gas prices. Chances of an accident increase during high traffic times, and South Carolina had over 1000 car crash fatalities in 2021, making the chances seemingly larger. Following that, driving personal vehicles increases the output of greenhouse gasses. Finally, the greatest struggle with driving in a city is finding parking. Unfortunately, there is very little free parking available in Charleston, so after finishing the exhausting task of finding a spot, there is a fee of around $1.00 per 30 minutes. A ticket anywhere from $14-$45 from the parking enforcement will quickly shut down attempts to evade paying for parking.

7. Horse-drawn Carriage

The final and absolute worst way to get around Charleston is by horse-drawn carriage. Sure, they fit the southern charm that Charleston and many tourists are seeking out, but at the expense of the horses. They are subject to pulling 16 passengers along with the wagon itself and the driver. If these carriage rides were aiming to reflect history, they would do it accurately and have only two-three passengers aboard on a smaller wagon. The horses also work in weather conditions up to 94℉ and walk down the street behind cars releasing harmful fumes. Contributing to the mistreatment of animals is the main reason not to use horse-drawn carriages, but they also are relatively limited in travel. The carriage rides are with a tour guide, so only a small portion of downtown Charleston is shown while obtaining historical information on the city and overworking a horse. If the goal is to see Charleston and reflect on the history, scroll back up to number one because that is a much better way to do it!

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