CARTA sets a new record

A CARTA bus. (Wade Spees/File)

Even the worst Lowcountry traffic last year wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.

That’s because CARTA helped a record number of people get around the Charleston area in 2014, taking as many as 12,500 cars off the road each day.

That number brings into clear focus the current impact of public transportation, and the need to encourage its use and expansion in the future. More than 5 million people rode CARTA buses last year, which was a nearly 2.5 percent increase over the previous year.

The trend could hardly be more encouraging as traffic and growth increasingly dominate public discussion across the Lowcountry. And there are plenty of signs that public transit could get a big boost in the near future.

The city of Charleston and the Historic Charleston Foundation commissioned a peninsular mobility report, which recently recommended resurrecting an old streetcar system to help shuttle visitors and commuters up and down the peninsula.

Likewise, the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments is currently conducting an exhaustive study of alternative transit options along Interstate 26 between Summerville and downtown Charleston. Among the options currently on the table are light rail, commuter rail and bus rapid transit.

The COG hopes to submit a final project application to the Federal Transit Administration by December.

If CARTA manages to keep performing so well — and current trends indicate that’s likely — new public transit projects will undoubtedly benefit from the momentum.

That’s a good thing for the Charleston area both now and decades in the future. The Lowcountry will continue to attract new residents and visitors, but it doesn’t have to attract new traffic.