History

Welcome to
CARTA Transit System

CARTA stands for: Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority. CARTA offers Fixed-route, Flex Service, Express commute service, and Paratransit service throughout the Charleston Metropolitan area, including The Trolley (DASH) service in the Historic Peninsula area of the Charleston.

This site provides information about how the system can take you almost anywhere your life takes you in the Charleston Metro area including work, shopping, hospitals, schools, and much more.

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The following is a brief history outline of how public transportation has evolved and grown in the Charleston area.  CARTA has worked diligently to preserve transit service while pursuing and securing a dedicated source of local funding for transit in the Charleston Region.

1972- Expiration of franchise agreement (SCE&G expressed interest in divesting themselves of the public transportation system.

1975- The franchise system renewed (SCE&G only required to provide “reasonable  service” for public transportation)  Systems across the country were also changing from private operation to public operation. SCE&G began to reduce service.

Mid-80’s- A committee was setup to examine how they could reduce operations.  Efforts were also underway to change State law to provide a better mechanism for establishing regional transportation authorities throughout South Carolina, as well as to provide a local funding mechanism that the public would accept.

1978- DASH (Downtown Area Shuttle Program) started.  (Federal funds established to defray some expenses and to assist with starting DASH)

Nov. 1990- 1ST Referendum for establishing a Regional Transportation Authority and the operation of public transportation in the community failed 2 to 1.  The public expressed their displeasure with how the funding mechanism would be instituted.

1992- The SCE&G franchise expired again.

Aug 1996- Negotiations for a new franchise agreement began. SCE&G indicated they were no longer interested in signing a new franchise agreement.

  • SCE&G expressed an interest to provide funding based on operating losses for a period of time to allow the opportunity to gain passage of new legislation providing for a new funding mechanism, as well a s sufficient time to have at least two referendums.
  • During negotiations, a court case in Columbia SC ruled that a private company was not required to operate a public service at a loss.  This decision had a direct affect on the negotiations.
  • Final agreement required SCE&G to pay over seven years for the operation of a public transportation system with the City of Charleston assuming responsibility to create a regional transportation authority for the area.

Oct 1996- City of Charleston assumed responsibility and immediately embarked upon the effort to enlist other communities to join forces in creating a regional transportation authority.

1997- CARTA formed as the first group of governments joined together to form Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority.

June 9, 1998- Change in the Federal laws for the use of Federal funds with the passage of TEA-21.

2000- Legislation was introduced regarding utilizing a portion of an infrastructure sales tax for transportation that had recently passed.  An infrastructure sales tax referendum was held to provide 40% of the funding for roads, bridges, and drainage: 35 for public transportation and 25 for parks and greenspace.  The referendum failed by less than 1%, but was received by the public than the 1990 referendum.

2002- 2nd Referendum passed by less than 1% after some changes in the allocation of funds.  Ultimately however, the final outcome was a ruling of the State Supreme Court whereby the referendum results were overturned. A new election was not authorized.  South Carolina Supreme Court refused to rehear the case.

Oct 2002- CARTA’s funding scheduled to run out. CARTA began the process of maintaining service until a new referendum could be held.

Jan 6, 2004- CARTA would not be able to sustain operations until November 2004, and required emergency assistance from the Federal, State, and local governments. CARTA instituted substantial reduction in services in order to maintain some service in the community until the referendum was held. Charleston County requested Governor Sanford to set a date for a new sale & use tax referendum in response to the South Carolina Supreme Court’s nullification of the November 5, 2002, referendum.

Jan 27, 2004- Governor Sanford issued an Executive Order calling for an election in November 2004.

Nov 2, 2004- The Charleston County ½ Cent Sales Tax for transportation and Transportation Infrastructure (The Local Sales & Use Tax) passed and the future for public transportation was at last secured.

June 2005- CARTA was able to restore transit service that had been greatly reduced in January 2004 and return some “normalcy” for many of CARTA’s longtime passengers.  The majority of fixed services reestablished.

Jan 2006- Additional fixed routes re-launched, and new services added with CARTA @ NIGHT  and Flex-route started.

Summer 2006- Promotions and community relations result in ridership numbers nearing amount had before reduction in service.

2007- Bus shelters added throughout the Charleston area

Jan 2007- CARTA Express started, a new commuter service designed to get riders into and out of downtown faster, with less stress and expense.  Four Park and Ride locations developed and the public responded immediately with high numbers in ridership and a new segment began using CARTA that had not been using the system before.

Feb 2007- CARTA unveils the first-ever external advertising on public transit in Charleston

April 2007- CARTA receives top annual award from the South Carolina Department of Transportation.  The Mass Transit Director’s Award is given to an agency or individual based on innovative projects that have made significant impacts or contributions to public transportation in South Carolina.

June 2007- CARTA celebrates 10 years since its’ original formation

Sept 2007- City of North Charleston and CARTA break ground on North Charleston Intermodal Center.  Groundbreaking launches construction of infrastructure at site of future convergence site for buses, trains, and cabs-enhancing connectivity throughout the Lowcountry.  The center once completed, will serve as a transportation hub for passenger trains, Greyhound buses, taxis and shuttles used by the Charleston International Airport and a CARTA Express Park and Ride lot.

Nov 2007- CARTA surpasses 3 millionth annual rider mark for the first time since services were reduced and reinstituted.  Annual ridership milestone beats 2.8 million riders from 2006.