Chapman says Clemson needs ‘all in’ commitment to public transportation
By Greg Oliver
CLEMSON — Clemson City Council incumbent Jerry Chapman, who is seeking a second term, said traffic is a major problem facing the city and one that “is not going to get better without some serious long-range planning and an ‘all-in’ commitment to public transportation.”
“Whether we agree or disagree, the city is driven by the strategic decisions Clemson University makes regarding enrollment and growth of the university,” Chapman said. “Because we have limited and restricted transportation infrastructure, our traffic issues are magnified.”
A native of Easley, Chapman graduated from Easley High School in 1967 and Clemson University in 1971, earning a degree in electrical engineering. After spending his entire 40-year working career with Duke Energy in a variety of engineering and managerial positions across both Carolinas, Chapman and his wife, Beth, moved to Clemson 12 years ago.
During his first term on council, Chapman has seen the creation of the city-sponsored Economic Development Advisory Board, as well the work of the long-established Clemson Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We need to look for more ways each of these organizations can be empowered to identify and attract new and expanded businesses within the Clemson community,” he said. “Whether it involves some type of public-private partnership or through the use of various incentives, we need to attract businesses to our downtown business district, which will attract residents and visitors, as well as students, staff and faculty.”
Chapman said his vision in the next four years is “to be united in how we envision and plan for growth and how we head off its consequences on our community.” Chapman said he sees a Clemson with the College Avenue streetscape completed — with new, protected bike paths and wider sidewalks creating an entirely different feel for that area, street trees providing a shady canopy and ample public parking available for residents and visitors to take advantage of retail and dining options. He also hopes for subsiding traffic woes, even with greater traffic volumes, from a strong partnership with Clemson University and other adjoining communities and a reliable, dependable public transportation system provided by Clemson Area Transit.
He also envisions the development of the Pacolet Milliken property on U.S. Highway 76 currently underway, growth in recreational opportunities including an expansion of Nettles Park and other city parks, a new downtown welcome center with public art included, a new Arts Center, and expanded Clemson Area African-American Museum.
While the congestion in downtown Clemson remains a primary concern among many, including Chapman, he refutes the notion that students will still choose to drive their cars even if they live in apartments within walking range of campus.
“I do believe the theory that students living close to campus will walk to and from campus is valid and proven,” Chapman said. “We have seen the viable results as the downtown projects were completed. Evidence from the university’s parking and transportation department also supports this. So the closer to campus, the more readily students will walk and be less dependent on vehicles.”
Chapman added the issue to him isn’t whether students bring their cars to Clemson when moving in for the academic year, but how they use their vehicles.
“What is certain is that every parking space provided will be filled with a vehicle,” he said. “The more readily available the vehicles are, the more frequently the vehicles will be used on a daily basis. So by reducing the number of parking spaces for the residents of these (mixed-use housing) projects, the fewer vehicles available for quick trips on a daily basis.”
That is where Chapman said he feels the parking reduction program can be beneficial — with students living in high-density student housing projects located farther north on College Avenue looking for “an easier, more convenient mode of transportation.” He said vehicles parked illegally or in inappropriate locations would be addressed with parking violations or fines.
The Chapmans have three children and will welcome a third grandchild in December. He said serving on city council “is a distinct privilege, as well as a humbling and huge learning experience.”
“I ran for city council in 2014 on a pledge (of) ‘Your neighbor — your voice,’ and I hope the citizens of Clemson feel I have been true to that pledge,” Chapman said, adding that he continues to be committed to transparency in local government and inclusive and open processes for all local government activities.
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