Carolina Forest residents interested in beach shuttle service

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Carolina Forest residents are expressing interest in what they call a beach shuttle service after they say they're fed up with the parking situation at the beach.

"Well really, we've been working for over two years, since Myrtle Beach put parking meters up over there on the street ends and all that along the golden mile…and started charging out of city residents to park. There was a big issue raised in Carolina Forest, particularly that they didn't like the idea that they were having to pay to park, where previously they had parked for free…and I was in total agreement to that. I'm a native, I was born and raised here, and I always had places that I could go and park and not have to pay. The county citizens pay taxes just like everyone else does, and they felt like they were being left out and not being represented as far as having place to park and all that, so we've been struggling with this issue for a couple of years," said Vaught.

The representative for Coast RTA said there's an entertainment shuttle that starts up the day after Memorial Day and runs to Labor Day. It runs every 30 minutes, seven days a week, and route 7 makes several stops within Carolina Forest to the beach.

However, some residents say they're looking for a more customized shuttle service that'll pick up and drop off in front of the communities of Carolina Forest. Many say this idea is a great asset to the community. Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught said the easiest way to go about this is to expand Coast RTA, if possible.

He said they want to solve the parking issue at Myrtle Beach for the residents in Horry County, and will do whatever it takes to create a solution that's fair and equitable. However, the idea to create a privatized shuttle service comes with a lot of hurdles.

"The easiest way obviously would be to expand Coast RTA, because they are already in that business. They already know how to do it and everything else. If you brought in somebody else to privatize it and that kind of thing, it could be done that way. But, it all comes down to dollars. Coming up with how are you going to fund it? Are the people going to pay to ride the shuttles over there? Should the rest of the county pay for people to ride the shuttle? So, you know, there's a lot of different issues that need to be ironed out to make it fair for the county," said Vaught.

Residents in the Carolina Forest community say they think a beach shuttle service would be a great asset to the community. But some also say although the idea is great, it's just not economically feasible.

Rich Malzone is a resident of Carolina Forest and has been following this for three years now. He said Horry County Council has floated this idea about two years ago to Carolina Forest residents and didn't generate enough interest. He said someone brought the idea up again, and this time residents seem to be very interested in the possibility of a beach shuttle.

Malzone said the idea would work if it's a single person who plans to take a trip to the beach and back. However, if there's a family of 3 or more taking round-trips, it would make it more expensive. He said the bus trip for the family would cost more than how much it costs to park in a garage at the beach or at street-end parking.

"The main concern is funding. I don't see it being a viable business for an entrepreneur because of the numbers, if it's a single person going to the beach for an hour and they can get there in less and back in a reasonable time, that makes sense. But once you get to two people… once you start charging more than three to four people and once you start charging $3 or $4 a head one-way, then it's cheaper to park at the beach even paying the astronomical parking fees at the end lots," said Malzone.

Malzone said he's more in favor of a reasonable decal, which would allow county residents to park in the golden mile access lots.

"A sticker that would allow us to come and go in those end lots, is what I'm talking about. That would solve most of the problems, except on busy weekends, where you'll find a lot of the people out here don't go even to the beach on weekends or holidays. The people out here go to the beach in the morning for a couple hours on the weekdays, the afternoon to take a walk, but we can't do it because it's too expensive, so that's what I would see as a real fix," said Malzone.

Coast RTA said because it's a public transit service, they can't operate a charter to go into residential neighborhoods. Carolina Forest, however, is included in the company's five-year expansion plan.

"We want to solve the parking problem at Myrtle Beach for our residents, whatever it takes. You know whatever solution we could come up with. Something that's fair, something that's equitable, and something that allows the county residents to enjoy the beach. Because we love it as much as the people who live in Myrtle Beach do," said Vaught.

Copyright 2018 WMBF News. All rights reserved.