The Daily Gamecock

In Our Opinion: Safe transportation first step to fix Five Points

Addressing a number of issues in Five Points on Friday, Interim Columbia Police Chief Ruben Santiago made one thing clear: There’s no one problem in the popular bar district. There’s no one group at fault for its struggles. And there’s no one group that can fix it.

We’re encouraged that community leaders are still talking about how to do so two weeks after one of our students was paralyzed in a random act of violence, and that it’s still a topic of lively debate.
Santiago said he has concerns about closing streets, which USC President Harris Pastides and others have proposed as a fix for late-night crowding. Santiago’s take: A pedestrian-only district would push people to park further away from Five Points, where police can’t patrol as frequently and more people could be the victim of crime.

We see the merits of closing streets, but Santiago is right.
Without the public transportation to support it, the costs could outweigh the benefits. As we’ve written before, we’re not ready to take that risk.

But Santiago’s point raises a bigger problem in Five Points, one that needs to be fixed with or without concerns over violent crime: There isn’t enough public transportation late at night.
No one group can solve it, but each should make changes, and soon.

— The return of USC’s Five Points shuttle is a good start, but the university and Student Government should expand the popular Carolina Cab system.

— Cab companies and the city need to find a better way to get people out of Five Points. Whether that’s more taxis or a better system of picking them up, the current wait times are unacceptable, and they worsen crowding in the already-cramped area.

— Off-campus apartment complexes should add shuttles to and from Five Points and run them more frequently.

— The city and Central Midlands Transit should discuss a downtown circulator bus to connect Five Points with other places, including USC’s campus, the Vista and Main Street.
The benefits of better late-night transportation are many: It would discourage drunken driving, it would reduce crowding in Five Points and it would give the police and city officials more options as they try to tackle underlying problems in the area.

Each is a worthwhile goal, but none can be solved by one group or organization alone. We hope Five Points’ stakeholders — merchants, USC, city government and others — will do their part to make them reality.