A brief historical outline of how public transportation has evolved and grown in the Charleston area.

  • 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.

  • 1980

    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)

  • 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.

  • 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.

    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.

  • 1998

    June 9
    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.

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

  • 2004

    Jan 6
    CARTA would not be able to sustain operations until November 2004, and required emergency assistance from the Federal, State, and local governments. CARTA instituted a 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
    Governor Sanford issued an Executive Order calling for an election in November 2004.

    Nov 2
    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.

  • 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.

  • 2006

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

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

  • 2007

    Bus shelters added throughout the Charleston area.

    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.

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

    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.

    CARTA celebrates 10 years since its’ original formation.

    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.

    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.


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