$30,000 shelters added at Towne Centre bus stops

Two new privately-funded sheltered CARTA bus stops were built at Towne Centre in Mount Pleasant. This one is at a roundabout in the shopping center. The other one is on Hungryneck Boulevard. Each sheltered stop cost $30,000, officials said.

MOUNT PLEASANT — Most CARTA bus stops lack shelter from the rain and wind but the transit agency is chipping away at the problem.

On Wednesday, it received help from the private sector and the Town of Mount Pleasant.

“This sets up a vision for what’s possible. It’s all about the people,” said Scott Moore, a member of the CARTA passenger advocacy group Hungryneck Straphangers.

CARTA and Town Council members marked the occasion with a ribbon-cutting to celebrate completion of two sheltered bus stops at Towne Centre. Mayor Linda Page said bus riders deserve the best.

“It’s great news. This is the way it needs to look at every stop,” she said.

The privately-funded shelters, which cost $30,000 each, are part of a development agreement between Miller Capital Advisory Inc. and the town.

Funds for bus-stop shelters are scarce as CARTA works to keep the third oldest fleet in the country on the road. Some $360,000 in federal funds are available locally for bus-stop shelter construction but to receive those funds CARTA has to provide $90,000 in matching funds. That money has been reallocated toward maintenance and replacement of CARTA’s fleet of about 100 buses, officials said.

“That being the case, the system has not yet accessed the federal money though a solution is being discussed with local leaders. Once that mechanism is in place, CARTA will immediately be able to roll out between 20 and 25 shelters,” CARTA said in a statement.

Details on a possible funding solution were not released.

CARTA said that it would typically look to build five to seven shelters annually on a $100,000 budget.

“At the moment, however, fleet upkeep is a budget priority,” said CARTA Executive Director Jeff Burns.

CARTA selects stops for shelters based on customer usage. The transit agency said that it recently purchased 22 benches that it will deploy at stops that currently have no seating.

Some 88 of CARTA’s 723 bus stops are covered. The CARTA system has seen passengers climb to more than 4 million annually. The Towne Centre bus stops are on one of the system’s most popular routes.

The new bus shelters are located on a shopping center roundabout and on Hungryneck Boulevard. They encourage people to ride the bus which reduces traffic congestion and helps build a sense of community, said William Hamilton, who leads the Hungryneck Straphangers.

Moore said riding the bus creates “mini-communities” where people get to know each other during their commute.

“It makes for such a richer environment than what you find as an individual,” he said.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711