The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority has been considering eliminating one of the DASH routes on the peninsula, but the city of Charleston is pitching a very different idea -- make the DASH bus more useful, and make it free.

Mayor Joe Riley announced the proposal Tuesday night at the end of a City Council meeting, crediting the Peninsula Task Force with developing the idea. He said the city, the State Ports Authority and the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau would like to pay CARTA to combine two DASH routes into one downtown loop, with buses every 10 minutes that would be free to ride.

"We believe it would become a far more utilized system, and take cars off the streets," Riley said.

The DASH (Downtown Area Shuttle) buses operate on the lower peninsula, connecting shopping, tourism sites, government buildings and educational facilities.

The small green buses with wood trim are designed to look like trolleys, and charge the same $1.50 fare as regular buses.

A five-year plan developed for CARTA had suggested discontinuing one of the DASH routes in order to save money.

Tim Keane, the city's director of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability, said that if CARTA adopts the DASH recommendation, most city residents living south of the Septima Clark Parkway would be within a five-minute walk of the bus route.

"It's a significant recommendation," he said. "It (would be) much better service, and it's free."

Free for riders, anyway. It would cost an estimated $416,000 to cover the costs for a year, Riley said, with most of the money coming from existing tourism-related taxes.

Riley said the plan will be presented at a CARTA board meeting today that starts at 2 p.m. in the third floor Buist Conference Room of North Charleston City Hall.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or