CARTA chairman addresses plan for buses to beach

CARTA chairman addresses plan for buses to beach
CARTA routes are back to normal after the Wando Bridge closure. (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The new Chairman of CARTA, Mike Seekings, has only been on the jobs for a few weeks but he's confronting public transits issues head on.

Seekings says lack of funding and partnerships is stalling buses to the beach towns.

"If there's a frustration it's that wed like to do more and we just are limited currently in our ability to do more because of funding issues," said Seekings. "When I say funding issues, it's sources of funding."
According to CARTA, Charleston, North Charleston and Charleston County are the main funders of CARTA, the Lowcountry's public transportation system. Charleston and North Charleston are home to the majority of riders.

However, Seekings says as more businesses come to the Lowcountry, the demand for easier ways to get around town continues to grow.

"Young companies that have young employees that are starting their careers here and making a good living and a lot of them don't want cars anymore, they want public transportation," said Seekings.

Currently, Mt. Pleasant and the surrounding beach communities don't pay for CARTA services, except for a percentage that goes to CARTA from their county sales tax.

Mt. Pleasant Mayor Linda Page says her town supports CARTA in alternative ways, like funding bus shelters that make riding the buses more appealing and comfortable. According to CARTA, Mt. Pleasant currently has three routes.

Beach town officials tell me they don't pay for CARTA because they don't get service.
In 2010, Isle of Palms, Folly Beach and Sullivan's Island tried out pilot bus routes to the beach. Officials from IOP and Folly tell Live 5 that very few people took advantage of it, proving to them that the current bus fleet and road infrastructure wasn't ready for a full-time, permanent route to the beach.

"I know that Sullivan's Island, IOP and Folly Beach would love to have the service but they don't just want the service, they want the service that's bringing people on it," said Seekings.

Seekings says he's going to create new pilot programs to the beach communities and do a better job of getting the word out about it. If successful, CARTA hopes to create permanent routes. However, the beach towns will have to pitch in.
"It will be a partnership and there will have to be some form of a buy in, whether it,s cash, support or shelters," said Seekings.
Seekings also looks to partner with private business to help fund the beach bus routes.
"If you own a hotel out on Folly Beach, or you're a business at Folly Beach, Sullivan's Island or IOP, certainly you're going to want people coming out there," said Seekings. "An attractive bus shelter might be the deciding factor."
Seekings says buses to the beach will happen, someday. However, before that happens, Seekings says the priority is getting a new fleet, a handle on their expenses and understanding the demands of their routing system.

Copyright WCSC 2015. All rights reserved.