Panel advises bus route changes

Elimination of Route 106 Otranto/Stall and the CARTA@NIGHT service, as well as ending or reducing Sunday and holiday service for other routes, was recommended Wednesday by a committee of the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority.

The CARTA Route Performance Committee recommended the changes to help CARTA balance its new budget beginning Oct. 1.

Route 106 Otranto/Stall has an average of 1,870 passengers per month and is the least popular route in the CARTA system. It begins at Deerwood Drive and Otranto Road and runs down Rivers Avenue to Northwoods Mall and Stall High School. It ends at the Trident One-Stop Center on Hanahan Road.

CARTA@NIGHT also is one of the least popular services offered. It operates from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. in North Charleston, Charleston, West Ashley and Mount Pleasant. Combined, the four late-night routes have an average of 3,382 passengers monthly.

The committee recommended eliminating Sunday and holiday service for Route 13 Remount Road, Route 21 Rutledge Grove, Route 104 Montague Avenue, Route 201 North Beltline and Route 401 Mount Pleasant Flex.

Also, Sunday and holiday service would end before 8 p.m. on Route 11 Dorchester/Airport, Route 12 Upper Dorchester AFB, Route 30 Savannah Highway and Route 40 Mount Pleasant.

"It would be very easy to cut this budget if you didn't have the consideration of the people who are affected," CARTA board member Linda Page said.

The CARTA board will vote on the committee recommendations at its meeting Sept. 15.

The CARTA board recently raised bus fares 16 percent starting Oct. 1, a move that is expected to generate an additional $303,800 to $580,800. The basic fare will increase from $1.50 to $1.75,

CARTA is making the changes because it faces a projected shortfall of more than $1 million in Charleston County half-cent sales tax revenue because of the economic downturn. However, ridership was at record levels in the current budget year ending Sept. 30.

Last year, 84 percent of transit systems in the country reduced service and/or had a fare increase, said Howard Chapman, CARTA executive director.

Eliminating the Otranto/Stall route will save $275,467 and ending CARTA@NIGHT means a savings of $267,551. Eliminating and/or reducing Sunday service is projected to result in $246,914 in annual savings.

CARTA will spend $243,000 more on Route 10 Rivers Avenue in the coming budget year to relieve overcrowding.

If approved by the CARTA board, the route changes are expected to take effect in mid-October.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711 or pfindlay@postandcourier.com.