Wednesday, November 9

Transportation Can Be Electrifying!

Across the state, South Carolina is gearing up for the electric, plug-in vehicles. Sustainable communities are an important objective with the Federal Highway Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the South Carolina Department of Transportation, just to mention a few. These vehicles are one more avenue towards enhancing sustainability across our state.

Recently, Planning staff attended a "Planning For Plugins" presentation hosted by Progress Energy and Plug In Carolina. One of the newest models, a Chevy Volt, was on site for viewing. Plug In Carolina has been working on a Pilot Program since 2009 with several cities to educate and install plug-in stations funded by grants. The purpose of the presentation was to invite the City of Florence to be apart of this program. Time will tell!

Four specific types of electric vehicles were discussed:
Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) - small electric battery with standard internal combustion engine that is charged through regenerative braking. (i.e. Toyota Prius);
Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) - all electric, no internal combustion engine. Battery is charged from the grid. Will travel approximately 100 miles before the need to recharge battery. (i.e. Nissan Leaf and Tesla Roadster);
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) - large electric battery with standard internal combustion engine. Battery is charged from the grid, regenerative braking or gasoline engine. Gets approximately 100 mpg. (i.e. New Bucket Trucks, PHEV Toyota Prius);
Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV) - battery charged from grid and has an onboard gas generator (engine) to power the vehicle for 'extended-range' driving. Will travel 40 miles on battery, then gas kicks in. Will get up to 300 additional miles on gas. (i.e. Chevy Volt).

The three levels of charging are:
Level 1 - typically comes with the car; 120v; plugs into 15 or 20 amp outlet. Charging time is 8-10 hours;
Level 2 - connects to 240v outlet (40 amp circuit). Charging time is 3-5 hours;
Level 3 - (DC Fast Charging - Commercial Unit Only). 480-600 volts. The standards for this type charging has not been established as of yet. Charging time is less than 30 minutes.

Currently, approximately 12,000 plug-in vehicles have been purchased and plug-in stations have been installed in the following cities as a result of the Plug In Carolina program:
(10) in Columbia, SC;
(16) in Greenville, SC;
(10) in Spartanburg, SC;
(6) in Union, SC;
(5) in Rockhill, SC;
Charleston, Conway, Myrtle Beach and N. Myrtle Beach areas have joined the program and will have stations completed by the end of 2011.

PlugIn Carolina's website explains the exact location of each station in addition to specifics on several different models.

As with all things, there are advantages and disadvantages. A couple of advantages are the cost of electricity per mile is about a quarter the cost of gasoline per mile plus the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions is about half of a comparable gasoline vehicle, which is excellent for Air Quality and the environment.

A couple of disadvantages could be the upfront cost of the vehicles or should I say the lithium battery, which makes up the majority of the cost of the car. There is however, a nice extended tax credit, which depletes the cost of the vehicle roughly $8,000. Additionally, if you plan to travel further than the battery's charge capability, you need to familiarize yourself with where plug-in stations are located before your trip.

Progress Energy and Plug In Carolina anticipate it will be the year 2020 before this type vehicle will peak the public's interest. I guess this will be the vehicle my grands will be driving. Oops! Better be careful, I'm about to tell my age.

Thursday, October 6

HART Transit System

PDRTA now services the Hartsville residents. Free fares will be offered through Friday, October 7th. The HART transit system will run weekdays from 7:30am until 6:30pm. The 17 mile route will stop at Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center, Coker College, Hartsville Memorial Library and the Hartsville Crossing shopping plaza. Effective October 10th, fares will be $1 one-way and 50 cents for half fares. Citizens age 65 and older, medicare card holders and those with disabilities ride for half fare. Children ages two through ten will ride for half fare. Children under the age of two will ride free. All day passes are available for $3 when you board the bus.

The 20-passenger buses are equiped with handicap accessibility, on board security cameras and GPS tracking. Wi-Fi is a possibility in the future.

For more information about the bus services, call PDRTA at 843.665.2227 or visit

Monday, July 18

Welcome Jay!

Florence County welcomes our new Planning Director, Jonathan B. Graham, III!

Mr. Graham is a magna cum laude architectural graduate of North Carolina State University, an International Code Congress CBO, Residential and Commercial Building Official and Licensed Level III North Carolina Code Enforcement Official with additional certifications and related associations. With over twenty years experience in county and municipal code and enforcement administration, he has received awards and recognitions in the areas of code enforcement administration and building inspection, as well as serving as an advisor and expert to various jurisdictions and organizations. Mr. Graham owns and operates Ovolo Architecture, PC, a firm providing expert services to groups such as the National Lawyers Association, US Gypsum, the North Carolina Building Code Council, the National Association of Fire Marshalls, the U.S. Department of Energy, and others.

Mr. Graham wishes to be called Jay.

Tuesday, June 28

SCDOT Public Comment Notice

As the Florence Area Transportation Study (FLATS) is notified by the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) of new projects that would either affect the citizens of Florence County or have a statewide impact, I will place this information on the Florence County Blogspot for you.

I have just received notification from SCDOT that a Press Release has been placed on their website for public comment.

Monday, March 14

PDRTA is ready for HARTsville

PDRTA wants to invest an estimated $600,000 for public transportation in Hartsville by supplying a bus service. This service would be similar to the service in Darlington called DART but would be named HART (Hartsville Area Transportation Service).

Janice M. Baroody, executive director of PDRTA, stated that they would work with the Hartsville Police Department and other necessary agencies to develop the most accommodating route for the area. Stops would possibly include the Medical Center, Coker College, the Memorial Library, grocery stores, shopping plazas, apartment complexes and different locations in the downtown area.

New vehicles will be handicapped equipped and provide security cameras in addition to GPS tracking. Wi-Fi is a possibility that would be an added bonus for college students.

The buses would resemble the Hartsville city flag in color and have a logo to represent the community.

PDRTA hopes to open a small downtown office.

The $596,000 budget would include $65,000 for two smaller buses, $175,000 for a trolley, $10,000 for signs and shelters, $10,000 for marketing, $80,000 for personnel and $200,000 for operational cost. The operational cost is subject to change due to the rising fuel costs which has almost doubled since last summer.

PDRTA officials want to hear from the citizens regarding the level of demand for public transportation in the city but do not have a meeting date at this time.

HARTsville ...PDRTA could be coming to you!

Monday, February 21

Where's the Blogs?

Is this what you've been thinking since our last blog on January 5th? I apologize to our Florence County Planning blog followers. It's been a busy time for the Planning Services Department.

We've been working on six Florence Area Transportation Study (FLATS) documents required by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that are due by our fiscal year end (June 30th). Some of these documents require a public comment period and review by the FLATS Study Team for recommendation to the FLATS Policy Committee and ultimately their approval. A tentative date has been chosen in June for these documents to be presented to the Policy Committee. I'll give you a few details on each document; however, you can view the current versions of each on our Florence County FLATS web page.
  • The Federal Obligation Report is an annually updated document. This document does not require a public comment period or review by the FLATS Study Team and Policy Committee, so the FY2010 update is complete and posted on the FLATS web page. The information for this report is provided to the FLATS staff by SCDOT. The narrative explains in detail why this report is required and what it entails. In short, it is an annual listing of projects, including investments in pedestrian walkways and bicycle transportation facilities for which federal funds have been obligated during the year.
  • The Public Participation Process (PPP) is required to be updated every three years. The June, 2008 version is on the FLATS web page. The draft for the June, 2011 version is complete, but requires a 45-day public comment period and Study Team/Policy Committee review. It will be posted on the web page after this process has been completed.
  • The Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) is required to be updated annually. This document outlines the activities that the FLATS will undertake in the next fiscal year using PL funds from FHWA with a local match by Florence County. The information for this report is also provided to the FLATS staff by SCDOT. The current FY2011 version is on the FLATS web page. The FY2012 version will require a 10-day public comment period and Study Team/Policy Committee review. It will be posted on the web page after this process has been completed.
  • The Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) entire document is updated every six years. However, amendments are necessary periodically during this six year period. The six year update is not due but there are some amendments required. The TIP entails information regarding each of these type of transportation projects: Guideshares, SAFETEA-LU Earmarks, Federal Transit Administration, and enhancements. The September 27, 2010 amendment to this document is on the FLATS web page. The entire updated document in addition to each amendment requires a 10-day public comment period and Study Team/Policy Committee review. The amended report will be posted on the web page after this process has been completed.
  • The FLATS Annual Report is updated annually. This report documents all FLATS activities as of the fiscal year end to be submitted to SCDOT. This document does not require a public comment period or review by the Study Team/Policy Committee. The FY2009 report is on the web page. The FY2010 version will be posted sometime in July.
  • The Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) is updated every six years. This very large, detailed document is a process of developing a transportation model that shows the demand on the transportation network in the FLATS area over a 20-year horizon period. It stipulates potential improvements for our transportation network to suffice future growth and alleviate traffic congestion. These improvements include, but are not limited to, roadway widening, access management, multi-modal transportation and possibly new road construction. This document requires a 30-day public comment period and Study Team/Policy Committee review. We plan to submit the final draft to the Policy Committee during their June meeting.

Ok, that's it for now. As you can see, lots of work to get back to. Just wanted to let you know why you haven't seen any new blogs lately. Til next time..........

Wednesday, January 5

Florence County Foreclosures 2006 - 2011

Brookings Institute has stated that the vacancy rate for owner-occupied housing is at 2.5 percent. This remains to be a percentage point above the pre-crisis norm.

A big concern is the future of home prices. Recent months have reflected a modest decline which is troubling because it could get worse before it gets better. The flooding of distressed properties could only worsen the pricing situation. New home selling prices are expected to be down about 3% in 2011.

According to Money Magazine, home prices will start to stabilize by late 2011 or early 2012. However, median prices will decrease by 5% before then.

A bigger challenge is the large number of households that are curently "underwater" with their mortages. It is estimated that a fifth of borrowers are in this group with half or more in states that have been hit the hardest.

From 2006 through 2010, there have been 1527 foreclosures in Florence County. Below are the yearly totals.

  • 2006 - 249
  • 2007 - 328
  • 2008 - 298
  • 2009 - 214
  • 2010 - 438

Total foreclosures by municipality for 2006 - 2010:

  • City of Florence - 470
  • Coward - 7
  • Johnsonville - 59
  • Lake City - 98
  • Olanta - 18
  • Pamplico - 5
  • Quinby - 18
  • Scranton - 4
  • Timmonsville - 42
  • Unincorporated - 811

Florence County foreclosures remain steady in the new year. Eighteen have been reported thus far. The next sales date is 1/18/11.