Seven new buses are now serving downtown Charleston routes, replacing the trolleys that served the area for years.
The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority bought the buses for $2.3 million, or $335,000 a bus. The city contributed $500,000; the remaining money came from CARTA and federal funds.
The buses began serving the three free Downtown Area Shuttle, or DASH, routes Dec. 1.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said public and private support of public transit options is increasingly important as the city grows and traffic gets more congested.
“Not only do we have these wonderful new shuttles, but we just passed a half-cent sales tax referendum that’s going to provide up to $600 million over the next 25 years to support our public transit system and, notably, for the first time, create a brand-new concept for Charleston public transit — and that’s a bus rapid transit system, the first line of which will run from Summerville to downtown Charleston,” Tecklenburg said during a news conference Thursday during which the shuttles were unveiled.
Helen Hill, CEO of the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the buses are ideal for tourists visiting the area without a car, as well as for residents without cars. She said the buses could help reduce traffic congestion and parking issues downtown.
The New Flyer MiDi buses are 30 feet long and 8 feet wide and can hold 53 passengers. They are designed to take up less street space than the 17-year-old trolleys.
The buses have two doors, low floors and wheelchair ramps, providing easier access. The vehicles also have wider windows, cushioned seats and better air conditioning, according to a news release.
“We’re delighted with the purchase of these new vehicles and understand how important this improved experience will be for local workers, residents, students and hundreds of thousands of visitors each year,” CARTA board Chairman Mike Seekings said in a statement.