Angry riders demand that CARTA keep two routes

Angry speakers lashed out Thursday at a proposed plan to end two CARTA routes on the Charleston peninsula.

The No. 21 Rutledge Grove and No. 201 North Beltline are needed to get to jobs and doctors, they said.

The Rev. John Paul Brown of Mount Zion AME Church said that CARTA was asking poor people and seniors to walk further in the summer heat to a different bus stop.

“You ought to be ashamed,” Brown said.

The two routes are being considered for elimination because not enough people ride them, CARTA said.

In response, the Rev. Gordon Cashwell of Without Walls Ministry said the buses run too infrequently at once an hour. With better service, more people would ride the routes, he said.

Cashwell said the CARTA system promotes tourism with its popular free DASH service in the lower peninsula.

“Why not ask the tourists to pay a little bit?” he said.

CARTA proposes eliminating the North Beltline and the Rutledge Grove and re-assigning those buses to Route 20, which runs from Broad Street to The Citadel along Meeting and King streets. If approved by the CARTA Board, the change would mean more frequent buses on Route 20, officials said.

The public hearing at Burke High School was the second one this week held to gather public comment on the proposed cuts. CARTA officials said the free DASH bus service on the peninsula has reduced riders on the pay routes. If the Nos. 201 and 21 are eliminated, there are other routes within a reasonable walking distance that can handle passengers affected by the change, the officials said.

Mobility-impaired riders who can’t make it to a new bus stop can call the CARTA Tele-A-Ride service, he said.

Some 3,290 people rode the Rutledge Grove route through March of this year. It had an average of 10 passengers per hour, which is about half of what it needs to be considered on target, according to CARTA.

The North Beltline drew 2,478 riders through March, and seven passengers per hour, which is about 10 riders per hour short of where it needs to be.

Each route had less than 1 percent of CARTA riders.