Mentor cities for Charleston, S.C.

Downtown by Charlestonpired

Photo by @charlestonspired

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Last month, we asked: If you had the power to change one thing about our city in order to make it better, what would that one thing be and why?

Hundreds of responses poured in, including controlling littering, easing heavy traffic, combating the lack of diversity/cultural events, preventing flooding downtown, + increasing public transportation (just to name a few).

Already, the City of Charleston has begun to make changes to combat the issues the community has mentioned, and in some cases, they have looked to other cities to see what works:

  • Charleston is working with a program called Dutch Dialogues to fight flooding by learning to ‘coexist with water.’ The program stems from the Netherlands, another low-lying area with similar flooding issues. Read more about that here.
  • The City of Charleston hired its first-ever manager for Diversity, Racial Reconciliation and Tolerance, and the Charleston Police Department is currently performing a racial bias audit.
  • The Lowcountry Rapid Transit System is expected to open in 2025, making public transportation between Summerville + Charleston easier than ever. Read more about that here.

As a city that’s made up of both lifetime natives + transplants, we’d like to know: what cities are doing it right when it comes to issues like traffic, littering, diversity, etc.?


Here are just a few (of the many) responses we’ve already received:


  • In Aspen, C.O., dedicated street teams keep Aspen gorgeous. Aspen’s tax base helps.”
  • “In Seattle, W.A. they have recycling cans next to litter cans throughout the city.”


  • “In Denver, C.O. there are bike paths everywhere- truly an amazing network. You can even ride a bike all the way to Vail - safely - not on the streets like here. Asphalt bike paths interconnect throughout the city”
  • Boston, M.A. still has plenty of traffic issues. But one way they really cut down on it is by having a commuter train system to the surrounding suburbs.”
  • “The Marseille, France tramway is a tramway system in the French city of Marseille in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Marseille’s modern tram network now consists of three lines, serving 32 stations, and operating over 15.8 kilometers of route.”
  • “In Greenville, S.C. they have a (32 mile?) bike path through the city that people can walk, jog, bike, stroll, etc.”
  • “In Pasadena, C.A. at heavy tourist/pedestrian crosswalks, they do pedestrians cross only which includes a diagonal cross for pedestrians. Then when the cars go,, there is no pedestrian traffic they have to wait to take a left or a right.”
  • “Traffic, in Eindhoven Holland, Copenhagen Denmark they have streets that are walking only and special lanes for bikers with public bikes everywhere.”
  • “In Portland, O.R. bike lanes everywhere and speed limits of 20 mph in residential zones. Research shows that bike lanes reduce not only bike deaths but also car deaths because drivers slow down and are more careful.”
  • Seattle, W.A. – they are very similar in geography and have been able to do amazing things with mass transit - trains, bike lanes, and paths, bus systems, etc. Also, Have diverse cultural events.”
  • Madrid, Spain keeps closing more streets to cars, putting pedestrians first. Charleston would benefit immensely by working to reduce car traffic to the peninsula.”


  • Boston, M.A is two years into a city-wide initiative to protect itself from the effects of climate change, including rising seas. Another proposal envisions a harbor-wide barrier system that would close during major storms.”
  • “In terms of flood precautions cities like Hamburg, Germany deal with floods multiple times a year (also with storms) and they have worked out city-wide concepts based on dams and watergates that help to prevent the flooding of buildings.”


  • Salt Lake City, U.T. is definitely a community to watch. Their economy is booming, talent magnet, lots of innovative jobs, doing incredible things with transit, including fast-tracking light rail. Air pollution is terrible because they’re in a basin and the mountains trap it, but the litter is minimal.
  • Utrecht! They have green roofs on bus shelters planted with flowers to help increase the bee population.”
  • Segregated neighborhoods have been proven to hinder opportunity for growth + upward mobility, according to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau. Seattle, W.A. is addressing the issue of segregated neighborhoods with a hands-on approach (click here).

If you know of a city that could be a mentor to Charleston with an awesome system to keeping the streets clean, a traffic pattern that could work for getting to/from the peninsula, or something else you’d like to see implemented, tell us about it below.