The Waccamaw Regional Transportation Authority wants to use money from a tourist tax to help start shuttle services between Myrtle Beach International Airport and oceanfront hotels.
The authority, which does business as Lymo, has asked Myrtle Beach for $96,390 in accommodations tax funds for the service, which could start as early as this spring.
Accommodations taxes are charged to hotel guests, and the city expects to receive about $3 million from the tax this year. The tax money is supposed to be used on projects and advertising that promote tourism.
Myrtle Beach City Council is expected to discuss Lymo's proposal at its annual budget retreat this week.
Myers Rollins Jr. said Lymo gets repeated requests from tourists for a shuttle service at the airport.
"We receive calls from convention planners and large tourist groups who want assurances that they can catch a bus from the airport to the convention center, and, unfortunately, we can't tell them we have that right now," Rollins said.
"And as many people who rent cars at the airport, there are those who would rather take a bus."
The shuttles would run hourly from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day and would link to other Lymo routes.
The shuttles would take passengers from the airport to stops along Ocean Boulevard, then along 29th Avenue North and Oak Street to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. The shuttles then would return to the airport via Robert M. Grissom Parkway.
Prices have not been determined, although typical one-way Lymo fares are $1 to $2 per person. Diamond Cab's taxi fares are $3.60 for the first mile and $2.40 per additional mile. It would cost about $12.50 for the 4.7-mile trip between the airport and convention center by taxi.
Horry County has donated land and shelters at the airport for the shuttles.
The city's Accommodations Tax Committee, which makes recommendations to City Council, voted against funding Lymo's request, according to committee member Frans Mustert. That denial was based on incorrect information Lymo submitted on its application.
"They said they were a for-profit organization, and you can't make a profit using accommodations taxes," Mustert said.
Lymo revised its application, certifying its nonprofit status, and the City Council could overrule the committee's recommendation based on the new information.
Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said the shuttles primarily would benefit convention attendees meeting at the convention center. About 6 percent of this area's 14 million annual visitors fly to the Grand Strand, and most of those people rent automobiles while they are here, Dean said.
"They're here for golfing or family vacations, so they need a car to get around," he said.
The shuttles could hurt taxi services at the airport, but some taxi operators think Lymo's limited operating schedule ultimately will be a drawback.
"It will have a lot of impact on us at first because they can offer cheaper prices," said Mark Price, a dispatcher for Diamond Cab, which serves the airport. Price said long waits between shuttles eventually could bring customers back to taxis.
"People are going to have to wait around forever on the bus, and that will look bad on the city of Myrtle Beach," Price said. "If they have to wait too long, they'll pick a taxi instead."
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