By Barney Blakeney
For about a year, the wheels of the Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority have been transporting most downtown Charleston residents free of charge on its DASH and King Street/Citadel (Route #20) buses. CARTA officials say the public transportation system is in the best financial shape ever. Things only will get better and be expanded, they say.
CARTA Board Chairman Mike Seekings said there are no current plans to change the status of the #20 route fares. He hopes that status will serve as a model for all the downtown routes at some time in the future. The #20 King Street/Citadel route has been conducted free to riders since October 2016. Several area businesses and individuals contributed the $46,000 to fund the free service earlier this year. The route since October has seen a 50 percent increase in ridership.
Seekings said currently there are no plans to change.
What will change is how the system operates going into the future, he said. Last November Charleston County voters passed a referendum to provide $2.1 billion over 25 years for roads and mass transportation. Of that, $600 million is designated to mass transportation. CARTA’S now debt-free and the additional funding will allow it to do a lot of things like upgrade its fleet with some 90 new vehicles and expand and extend routes and service, Seekings said. Public transportation is central for a lot of people. Our community can’t pave its way out of mass transportation problems, he said.
CARTA spokesman Daniel Brock said good things are happening not just on the Charleston peninsula. Some $600,000 has been allocated for bus shelters throughout Sen. Marlon Kimpson’s District 42 that encompasses areas downtown, West Ashley and in North Charleston. That should construct some 30 new bus shelters, he said.
And the wait at those shelters may be a little more tolerable because of a new app that allows riders to get real time information about arrivals at their location either with their smart phones or by texting to 843-202-4410. The app also can provide information on bikeshare and give directions from a bus stop to a general destination. And commuters will find a new park and ride lot at 995 Morrison Drive expected to come online early next year convenient as well.
“Things are moving in the right direction,” Brock said. “We need more services and more frequent service that will make the system attractive to more people. “It takes time, but we’re heading in the right direction.”