Holli Hartman // The Post and Courier

Charleston’s public transportation system has been ranked 55th in the nation in a recent study, which also showed it was the state’s most efficient public transportation to work.

The Charleston area has the state's most efficient public transportation system when it comes to getting people to work, according to a national study.

In a study that looks at the country's 100 largest metropolitan areas, Charleston ranks No. 55 followed by Columbia at No. 79 and Greenville at 93.

"We'd like to do better than 55 nationwide," said Howard Chapman, executive director of the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority.

Some 65 percent of the bus system's riders are people going to work, he said.

CARTA carries 4 million of the 12 million passengers statewide on public transit, he said.

Since dropping to 1.4 million in 2005, passengers on the bus system have risen steadily to 4.1 million last year, he said.

"I certainly expected that we would be tops in the state," Chapman said.

CARTA carries about 15,000 passengers daily, he said.

Low-income people are the largest share of those who take the bus to work in Charleston but middle- and high-income riders combined make up about 45 percent of passengers going to jobs. Of those going to work on the bus, the percentages are 35.9 low-income riders; 22.2 middle-income passengers; and 22.6 high-income bus users, according to the study.

Public transit is a critical part of the economy, the report notes.

"The journey to work literally defines U.S. metropolitan areas," it says.

The Brookings Institute authored the study.

Three out of four commuters travel alone in a car. However, the share of Americans using public transit to get to a job grew in the past 10 years for the first time in decades, according to the report.

The study looked at the commute from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday.

In addition to public transit, it describes a trend of some large businesses providing transportation for workers.

The Community Transportation Association of America says there are tax benefits for employers who provide workers with a ride to and from work. Through December, companies that offer transportation can claim up to $230 per month per employee as a normal business expense, which is exempt from federal payroll taxes, according to the association.

Studies show that employers who provide transportation benefits attract and retain workers, decrease employee absenteeism and are recognized as environmentally and worker friendly, the CTA says.