Angry riders take on CARTA Proposal to eliminate 2 routes challenged

Barbara G. Holmes, who regularly rides the bus to volunteer at the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, studies downtown CARTA routes during a hearing Thursday night at Burke High School.

Wade Spees

Angry speakers, many of them ministers, 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 the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority is asking poor people and seniors to walk farther 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 trolley service on 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 reassigning 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.

That rationale for eliminating the two routes was not enough for the Rev. Alma Dungee. “Workers won’t be able to take the bus,” she said.

The public hearing at Burke High School was the second one this week held to gather 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.

Many of the riders said that was not a practical solution.

“We need these buses. A lot of us have bad knees,” said Mary Rambert.

Senior Morris Murray said the change would require him to walk more than a mile to get to his doctor’s office. Patricia White said she rides the North Beltline every day to her job.

“We don’t have anything else, so the beltline needs to stay,” she said.

A CARTA consultant delivered a presentation before the hearing to provide background for why the changes were being considered. The proposal was presented as an effort to more effectively and efficiently use CARTA resources.

“I would hope that you would re-think this position. Please don’t do this to the people,” said the Rev. Alonzo Washington of Wallingford Presbyterian Church.

Anna Johnson, a county councilwoman and CARTA board member, spoke to the crowd.

“Just about everybody out here is a senior. I am a senior. I just want you to know that I heard what you have to say,” she said.

She said the stories about problems walking to the bus stop hurt her heart, and she will present the issues to the CARTA board.

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

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711.