They come from different walks of life but share a common problem -- they no longer have bus transportation vital to their jobs because of budget woes at the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority.
Shannon Jenkins, a single mother of three, works nights at Wendy's on Spring Street. Jenkins, 41, lives on Reid Street. She relied on CARTA@Night.
"I will be really worried about walking home at night," she said.
The service ran from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., but as of Sunday it was no longer available.
West Ashley resident Claire Singleton relied on CARTA@Night to get to her overnight shift at the Medical University of South Carolina. The service was a free benefit offered by her employer. Now, she is faced with a $13 cab ride to get to her lab technician's job. She is saving for a car.
"I'll have to do without something," Singleton said.
More than 250 workers have signed a petition circulated by Singleton that says CARTA@Night was essential transportation and urging the bus system to continue the service. Food and beverage, retail, hotel and nursing home workers used the service.
Singleton talked about the vast mass transit system in Philadelphia, where she lived, which she said saved her a lot of money. It reduced pollution and traffic, too, she said.
Carlton Washington, a floor technician at East Cooper Hospital, will have to find a new way to work starting today because of the loss of CARTA@Night.
"I didn't understand it. The way I look at it, it's public transportation, and we're the public. It caught me off guard. It blindsided me pretty good," he said.
CARTA also eliminated Route 106 Otranto/Stall, and it reduced service on 20 routes serving North Charleston, downtown, West Ashley and Mount Pleasant. A complete list of the affected routes is available at the CARTA website at www.ridecarta.com
A 16 percent fare hike went into effect on Oct. 1 for all CARTA services. The basic fare increased from $1.50 to $1.75. The higher fares, route cuts and service reductions were needed because of a $1.3 million shortfall in Charleston County's half-cent sales tax revenue for the budget year ending Sept. 30, CARTA officials said.
Route 106 Otranto/Stall and CARTA@Night were eliminated as recommended in a memo to board members from CARTA Executive Director Howard Chapman. An estimated 40,500 passengers used the CARTA@Night service annually. Otranto/Stall had 22,443 riders annually. The two routes were the least popular services in the bus system, according to a July report.
CARTA Chairman Patterson Smith said the board worked to balance the budget in a way that would affect the fewest riders. "We had to make some difficult decisions," he said.
Smith said CARTA@Night and Otranto/Stall could be restored if half-cent sales tax revenue improves, adding, "I cannot predict the future."
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, a CARTA board member, also said he hoped that service could resume when the economy turns around. "It was a gut-wrenching, heart-rending matter," Riley said of the cuts.
A salary cut of 0.25 percent was approved in August for CARTA's administrative staff, which faces a 9 percent increase in the cost of health insurance.
The CARTA board meets at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Charleston Museum to give final approval to its new budget.
David Slade contributed to this report. Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711.
CARTA cutsCARTA@Night and Route 106 Otranto/Stall eliminatedService on 20 routes reducedChanges took place SundayIf you goCARTA board meetingFinal approval of new budget2 p.m. WednesdayCharleston Museum360 Meeting St.More infowww.ridecarta.com
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