'Boat to Work Day' launches on Daniel Island Ferry
A few dozen folks left their cars behind and hit the water for their daily commute to downtown Charleston on July 27, as the first ever “Boat to Work Day” launched from the Daniel Island shoreline near Children’s Park.
The historic event was sponsored by the Coastal Conservation League, Charleston Moves, Gotcha Bike, BoomTown and the Daniel Island Ferry. Also offering support on-site was Lowcountry Go, a regional partnership between Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments, SCDOT and the Federal Highway Administration.
Daniel Island resident Kevin Gray, a physician who works at MUSC, brought along his bike for the ride.
“It’s invigorating to ride a boat to work!” said Gray. “I feel energized by it. It’s actually better for my mental health to do this, to not be in traffic. But also – everybody who gets on this boat is one less car on the road. We live in such a beautiful environment. Why not enjoy it, rather than looking at a roadway?”
Island residents Chad and Angie Johnson also took part, bringing along their three sons and several visiting family members. When asked why the water taxi appealed to them, Angie was quick to respond.
“We hate traffic!” she said. “And this is a little bit of an adventure. We have family in town so we thought it would be great.”
“Without our own boat, it’s an opportunity to get out on the water and see that perspective of Charleston,” added Chad.
Citing the frustrations brought on by the recent shutdown of westbound lanes on the James B. Edwards Bridge on I-526, Coastal Conservation League Communities and Transportation Program Director Jason Crowley got the crowd revved up for the ferry’s departure.
“With the closure of the bridge we all just realized how important it is to be able to diversify our transportation options here,” he said. “We can’t rely just on cars. We need to be looking at our waterways, our mass transit, our bus ways, our bike ways, everything to be able to get people around in connecting our region.”
“And what better way than the original way?” added Crowley, referencing an old ferry run by John Clement in the late 1700s that took people from nearby Thomas Island to downtown Charleston. The former service is the namesake for today’s Clements Ferry Road.
“A ferry that once led us from the island to the mainland,” he continued. “It’s a great opportunity to reconnect the waterways.”
Also on hand for the morning commute was Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg.
“We support this effort,” said Tecklenburg, who appeared ready for his work day at City Hall, dressed in a business suit. “I think it’s grand, that’s why I’m here this morning!”
Democratic candidate Jen Gibson, who is running against Republican Nancy Mace this fall to represent S.C. House District 99, was among the passengers along for the ride.
“I think this is amazing,” she said. “We need innovative solutions for our infrastructure problems and public transit is one of them. We’re going to have to embrace it.”
The Daniel Island Ferry currently offers trips to and from the island and downtown Charleston on Thursday and Friday evenings. In response to the recent bridge shutdown, they provided a well-received commuter service on a temporary basis. The company is set to resume daily commuter runs in March of 2019, when improvements to the dock and surrounding area are expected to be completed.
“The dock is getting upgraded,” said Colby Hollifield, who co-owns Daniel Island Ferry, along with Chip Deaton and Scott Connelly. “It will be about 10 times bigger that it is now. We’ll have a lot more dock space and a covered area on the dock itself.”
The Daniel Island Ferry also hopes to debut a new boat around the same time.
“Our plan is to start commuter service right out of the gate,” added Hollifield. “We’ll have monthly passes, which will guarantee your spot…It will be climate-controlled so it will be running year round. Really the future of transportation in Charleston has to include a water option and we’re gonna be that water option and hopefully expand from there.”
Crowley is optimistic the idea will take off.
“This is an incredible opportunity,” he said. “And hopefully by spring of next year…this will be a regularized system for folks on Daniel Island to get between downtown and the island without having to sit in traffic.”
As the boat slipped away from the dock last Friday with 40 happy passengers, the effort appeared to be moving forward, full steam ahead.