Private funding effort to be announced for CARTA King Street Route 20

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Private business leaders and community members are stepping in to extend free service on CARTA's King Street Route 20 to help residents on the peninsula get access to groceries after the closing of the Meeting Street BI-LO.

The BI-LO store closed in September, a move left only two grocery stores in downtown Charleston: a Food Lion on King Street and a Harris Teeter store on East Bay Street.

An announcement of private funding for the route and community challenge to do more was made Tuesday at the Charleston Grill on King Street. Organizers are pushing to extend the service in the new year.

Mickey Bakst with Feed the Need and Belmond Charleston Place has spearheaded private donations with local businesses, raising $46,000 to continue free service for six additional months. Hilton and Catherine Smith/East Bay Company; Neil Robinson; Sean Litton/Peninsula Company; Tony McAlister/McAlister Development Company; and Blackbaud all contributed as of Tuesday.

"When you look at how Charleston is changing, how it's long-time residents are being impacted, I think it is incumbent upon leaders in the business community to step in and help," said Bakst. "Food is important to our city's identity and it's a core essential for everyone. We have to make sure that all residents have access to groceries. It's the right thing to do."

Bakst is encouraging other local businesses to donate, in hopes of funding free service for all of 2017.

CARTA Board of Directors Chairman Mike Seekings said ridership has increased 50 percent since CARTA began the free bus service in October. Food Lion is providing passengers with $2 coupons, the price of a standard CARTA fare, through the end of the year.

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