Summerville route

CARTA launches a new Summerville Express on Monday.Service begins at Dorchester Village Shopping Center at Dorchester and Trolley roads.Stops include Bosch, Boeing, Joint Base Charleston, the Charleston Visitor Center, the Medical University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston.Service will be every half-hour from 5:15 a.m. to 9:46 a.m., and from 3:07 p.m. to 7:39 p.m.

Garry Wilson realized recently that it made sense to leave his car at home and take a CARTA bus to work.

More on the bus

Yearly CARTA riders show increase:2008 4,030,5212009 4,039,7732010 4,173,1152011 4,448,143Through May 2012 2,018,479For the first time, CARTA expected to break 5-million-rider mark this year.

“Fuel prices,” he said.The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center electrician said he spends $50 for a 31-day pass. It was costing him that much per week to put gas in his car.

“I have no problem with CARTA at all. It’s a very good service,” he said.

As Wilson, a Desert Storm veteran, and others rode the Dorchester Road Route 12 bus Wednesday, CARTA geared up for its new express service between Summerville and Charleston.

The new route, which starts Monday, will serve workers at Boeing and Bosch as well as Joint Base Charleston and the Charleston Visitor Center. Stops serving the Medical University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston also are on the express route.

The service will leave from the Dorchester Village Shopping Center at Dorchester and Trolley roads starting at 5:15 a.m. and run every half-hour until 9:46 a.m. Return buses will run from 3:07 p.m. to 7:39 p.m. CARTA is assigning three buses to the route.

Officials with the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority report that more and more people are taking the bus these days. Since 2008, the number of travelers who board a bus run by the transit authority has steadily increased.

This year, CARTA expects to break the 5-million-rider mark for the first time. So far, the transit agency is reporting a 13 percent increase in riders compared with last year, when 4.4 million customers took the bus.

“Ridership continues to grow,” said Christine Wilkinson, CARTA executive director.

“Sixty percent of the people who live in Summerville work in Charleston County,” said Elliott Summey, CARTA chairman.

The express route is a significant development for CARTA as it branches out beyond the Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant areas. A press conference and ribbon cutting are planned for Friday morning to mark the beginning of the new service.

As the Route 12 bus lumbered from stop to stop Wednesday, mothers who obviously knew one another chatted about the progress of their children. Some riders slept to the drone of the diesel engine. Broken cars and going to classes were some of the other reasons given for being aboard.

Dominique Greene rode the Dorchester Road Route 12 bus from her classes where she is studying to become a certified nursing assistant.

“Walk or find a ride. I need it almost every day,” she said.

Willie White, a banquet captain at the Embassy Suites Hotel, said he was riding the bus because his wife had the car for the day. Dennis Johnson, a cook at the Olive Garden, said he took the bus because his car had a flat tire.

Today is the seventh annual National Dump The Pump Day sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association in partnership with The Sierra Club and The Natural Resources Defense Council. The idea of the promotional event is to encourage people to leave their cars at home and try public transportation.

The latest APTA Transit Savings Report shows that a two-person household that downsizes to one car can save on average about $10,000 a year.

Last year, CARTA had 4.4 million riders. Through May of this year, 2 million people had taken the bus. In 2008 and 2009, 4 million riders were reported, and 4.2 million in 2010. For May, the latest figures show that CARTA had 35,000 more riders than last year.

At a CARTA board meeting Wednesday, the board heard about new possibilities for mass transit in the Lowcountry.

“We do see a future for light rail. Folks are becoming keenly aware of the limits of Interstate 26,” said Ron Mitchum, executive director of the Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester Council of Governments.

That could mean a 22-mile commuter rail from Summerville to Charleston, he said.

Mitchum also discussed a proposal to combine the services of CARTA and TriCounty Link, the rural bus service.