Private-Sector Leaders Partner to Continue Funding Free Route 20 Service on Charleston Peninsula – and Challenge Others

Feed the Need, Belmond Charleston Place, East Bay Company, Blackbaud and more involved in effort keep residents connected to groceries via CARTA …

Mickey Bakst of Feed the Need and Belmond Charleston Place, Hilton and Catherine Smith, East Bay Company, Neil Robinson, Sean Litton of Peninsula Company, Tony McAlister of McAlister Development Company, Blackbaud and others donating a combined $$46,000-plus to extend free service on Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority’s King Street Route 20.

The contribution will mean six additional months free service in an area of the city heavily affected by the closure of Bi-Lo in the fall. CARTA has provided free service on the route since October – and seen a 50 percent increase in ridership during that time – and will continue to do so through January 2017.

However, Bakst and Co. don’t want to stop at the three months they’ll be providing. They’re also challenging others in the Charleston business community to get involved and fund an entire year of service on Route 20.

“When you look at how Charleston is changing, how its long-time residents are being impacted, I think it is incumbent upon leaders in the business community to step in and help,” said Bakst. “Food is important to our city’s identity and it’s a core essential for everyone. We have to make sure that all residents have access to groceries. It’s the right thing to do.”

For those looking to get involved, checks should be made to Meet the Needs Charleston – a 501 (c)(3) that will transfer the funds to CARTA. The address is 275 Beech Hill Lane, Mount Pleasant 29464.

“In the past weeks we’ve seen residents of Charleston County pass a half-cent transportation sales tax and $500,000 in state funds has come in for shelters and buses,” said CARTA Board of Directors Chairman Mike Seekings. “Now the private sector is stepping up in an incredible way. Combined, this is unprecedented support for public transit in Charleston and we sincerely thank Mickey, Feed the Need, Belmond Charleston Place, Hilton, Catherine and the East Bay Company and Blackbaud for leading this effort.”

Route 20 runs along King Street and Meeting Street between Heriot Street and Broad Street. It serviced the former Bi-Lo and includes a stop in front of the Food Lion on King Street. Food Lion is providing passengers with $2 coupons – the price of standard CARTA fare – through the end of the year.

First-mile/last-mile …

Many public transit trips begin with a bike ride or lengthy walk and this holiday season the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) wants to help riders overcome what’s been dubbed the first-mile/last-mile problem – and also spread some Christmas cheer.

CARTA has partnered with Affordabike to refurbish 16 lost-and-found bicycles that will be given away to riders over the next couple of weeks in order to help them navigate walks of more than a quarter mile to their stop or final destination. A quarter-mile is roughly the maximum distance that most people find “comfortable” to walk to a stop.

Riders who could use two new wheels – or individuals who know someone who fits the bill – can submit requests/nominations through Dec. 20 by:

All CARTA buses, except free DASH shuttles, are equipped with bike racks as part of the system’s no-cost and easy-to-use Rack and Ride program.

Recipients will be selected by CARTA staff. One of the bikes will be given away through a drawing at the BCDCOG’s Walk + Bike BCD meeting Dec.13 at the former Navy Hospital. That drop-in event is scheduled from 3 – 8 p.m.

A better way to “DASH” around the peninsula for visitors, workers and residents …

CARTA is pleased to announce the arrival of seven new Downtown Shuttle (DASH) vehicles that will enhance the transit experience for a growing ridership on the peninsula.

 Hitting the road just in time for the holiday shopping season, the recently arrived NewFlyerMiDi buses will replace the existing 17-year-old trolleys and feature noticeable improvements in comfort, safety and efficiency.

“We’re delighted with the purchase of these new vehicles and understand how important this improved experience will be for local workers, residents, students and hundreds of thousands of visitors each year,” said CARTA Board of Directors Chairman Mike Seekings. “With a fresh look featuring Charleston’s iconic pineapple for hospitality, we look forward to making downtown more accessible and navigable.”

The seven new vehicles are 30 feet in length, eight feet wide and have capacity for 50 passengers. Made in the U.S., each vehicle cost approximately $335,000.  The purchases were made possible via a $500,000 expenditure from the City of Charleston that CARTA staff matched with significant Federal funds.

“CARTA and public transit are playing an increasingly important role in Charleston,” said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg. “Because of that, the City saw the necessity of assisting in upgrading the DASH fleet and we look forward to further regional collaboration in the future.”

Highlights of the new DASH vehicles include:

  • Panoramic windows with narrow posts for enhanced onboard views.
  • Quieter and more fuel-efficient engines.
  • Improved accessibility with two doors, low floor and easily accessible wheel chair ramps.
  • New comfort features such as cushioned seats and enhanced air conditioning.
  • Enhanced safety with more floor space for standing capacity, LED headlights, better maneuverability and a narrower frame, taking up less street space.

Three DASH routes allow riders to explore the peninsula, from the Aquarium to the Citadel to Broad Street and Waterfront Park. There is no cost to ride.

“The DASH service is a convenient and cost-effective way for residents and visitors alike to move around the peninsula,” shares Helen Hill, CEO of the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “At the same time, traffic congestion is reduced because there are fewer cars on city streets.”


  • Model: 30-foot NewFlyer MiDi
  • Made in the USA (St. Cloud, Minn.)
  • 250-horse power Cummins ISB engine and Allison B300R 6-speed gearbox
  • Replace “trolley” vehicles, which have been in service since 1999.


  • 0: Cost to ride
  • 2: Doors
  • 3: Great DASH routes
  • 7: New NewFlyer MiDis replacing trolleys
  • 8’: Vehicle width in feet (a half-foot narrower than the trolleys)
  • 10’1”: Vehicle height in feet
  • 30’: Vehicle length in feet
  • 53: Total passenger capacity
  • 18,298: Vehicle weight in pounds
  • $335,000: Cost per vehicle
  • $500,000: Local matching funds from the City of Charleston

The CARTA Board of Directors today extended the system’s free service on Route 20 until at least its next board meeting on Jan. 18, 2017.

Also beginning Monday, Nov. 21, Food Lion will supply a $2 coupon for CARTA riders on Route 20. The coupon is good toward purchases of $20 or more and must be used in conjunction with a Food Lion MVP card.

“We’ve chosen to extend this service through the holidays as a benefit to the community and we’ll revisit the issue in the new year,” said CARTA board chairman Mike Seekings. “We would also like to thank Food Lion for their participation and commitment to the residents of Charleston.”

By Mike Seekings and Ron Mitchum

Charleston County last week approved a $2.1 billion half-cent sales tax referendum that included $600 million for mass transit. The result is an unprecedented win for public transportation in the region and underscores that only an integrated system of roads, transit and bike/pedestrian facilities will help alleviate traffic woes in the Lowcountry.

CARTA executive leadership and its Board of Directors thank Charleston County residents for their “yes” vote and pledge to be excellent, responsible and transparent stewards of these incredible resources while working to build the world-class transit system that our region deserves.

With a bright future ahead, there are a few things that we hope Charleston County residents will keep in mind:

  • We’ll be accountable: From Day 1, CARTA will share regular updates as we put the referendum money to use.
  • Expect new buses, more reliable service and improved transit amenities: Much of what residents will see will be in the form of new buses, more frequent service and items such as shelters. It won’t all happen overnight – CARTA won’t receive $600 million in a lump sum – but there will be steady, measureable and noticeable improvement in the quality of our equipment and the service that we deliver every day.
  • Bus Rapid Transit: Some $250 million of the funds raised will serve as a local match for a Bus Rapid Transit line extending north from downtown Charleston along the Rivers Avenue. This alternative was studied for more than a year and included a massive public involvement component. Now the Charleston area stands poised to move forward with its first dedicated public transit infrastructure.

In the coming weeks and months, CARTA will undertake further in-depth planning while receiving input and feedback from our customers, area businesses and the community at large. Again we say thank you to the residents of Charleston County as public transit in the Lowcountry enters a remarkable new age.

Mike Seekings is Chairman of the CARTA Board of Directors and Ron Mitchum is the CARTA Executive Director.

Funding is part of a competitive $211 million national program …

The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments will receive $6.1 million to purchase commuter-style buses and related equipment in the Charleston region, the the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Administration announced today.

The funds will be put to use by the Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority, the grant sub-recipient, for the acquisition of 16 40-foot, low-floor buses and related items such as electronic fare boxes, security camera systems, locators, bike racks and more.

“This is a huge win for our region and is another important step toward CARTA’s strategic goal of updating its vehicle fleet,” said CARTA board chairman Mike Seekings. All of the new purchases will replace current CARTA Express commuter buses.

The BCDCOG, the governmental planning agency that oversees CARTA, received the funding through the FTA’s Bus and Bus Facilities Grant Program. Sixty-one projects in 41 states, the Virgin Islands, and Indian Country will share nearly $211 million to replace, rehabilitate, and purchase transit buses and related equipment, and construct bus-related facilities, according to a USDOT release.

The Bus and Bus Facilities Grant, which will help provide more modern, reliable bus service nationally, is part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, signed by President Obama in December 2015. FTA received 284 applications that totaled $1.64 billion from 236 applicants in 47 states.  The competitive bus grant program is authorized through 2020.

A list of the selected projects is available here.

“The Obama Administration is committed to improving transportation options that connect people in rural and urban areas across the country to opportunities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These grants will improve mobility for thousands of transit riders who depend on bus service every day, expanding access to employment, education, healthcare, and other important services in their communities.”

Selected projects include those that replace, rehabilitate, and purchase buses and related equipment as well as projects to purchase, rehabilitate and construct bus-related facilities, such as buildings for bus storage and maintenance, according to the USDOT.

CARTA Express commuter routes include:

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