Lack of riders causes North Area Shuttle cuts

Riders get on the NASH Express at the Charleston Area Visitor's Center.

The new North Area Shuttle connecting Charleston International Airport, Boeing, Tanger Outlets, Park Circle and the Old Village has been limping along.

The free service has averaged only two passengers per hour, officials said.

Because of the public response, the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority pulled the plug on one of two buses that were working the route.

The decision to take a NASH bus out of service was made after several months of operating the new route. The shuttle is an hourly service from 8 a.m. to midnight.

In comparison, the free Downtown Area Shuttle has proven popular in peninsular Charleston.

CARTA also launched a NASH Express service from the airport to downtown Charleston. The NASH express is $3 one-way.

"Ridership for the NASH Express in June was a record 1,909. As awareness of NASH Express increases, we feel the route will realize its considerable potential," said CARTA spokesman Daniel Brock.

In June, the NASH Express cost about $11 per passenger to operate and had four passengers per hour. About 28 percent of its operating cost was recovered in fare revenue.

The local NASH service cost $10.93 on average per passenger to operate, according to CARTA figures.

The system-wide average cost per passenger is $1.63, according to CARTA's ridership report for June.

The change in the local NASH service was announced Wednesday at a meeting of the CARTA board.

Tanger, the Charleston County Aviation Authority, Charleston County and Boeing have contributed to the cost for the NASH service. CARTA officials said taking a bus off the local NASH route will result in a $300,000 savings.

Anna Johnson, Charleston County councilwoman and CARTA board member, raised the question of reassigning the bus pulled from the local NASH route and placing it into service on Folly Road.

"I am dissatisfied with the service on James Island. I just don't see where we are really working hard to provide service and relieve traffic on Folly Road," she said.

The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments is spearheading a study of Folly Road traffic management, some CARTA board members noted.

Johnson said she is more interested in action on the traffic issue than a study of the James Island congestion problem.

The most successful CARTA express service is the James Island to North Charleston route.

Overall CARTA ridership for June was 417,000, an increase of 8.1 percent over last year. Revenue for the month was $438,000, up 14 percent over 2013.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711.