CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Schools are back in session and that means roadways in and around the Charleston metropolitan area have become even more crowded.

The Town of Mount Pleasant Transportation Department said traffic volumes on major roadways in the town increase by approximately 15% to 25% during the school year compared to the summer months.

With traffic volumes and high gas prices already causing headaches for local drivers, more may be looking for alternative ways to get around the city, including hitching a ride on public transportation.

Ditching cars for public transportation represents a growing trend in the Charleston area. According to the American Public Transporation Association, CARTA saw an 11.9% increase in ridership in the first quarter of 2022 compared to last year.

So whether you want to save a little money or reduce your environmental impact, CARTA buses can get you where you need to go.

Who is eligible for free rides on CARTA?

K-12 Students

All students in kindergarten through twelfth grade can ride for free in the CARTA service area. Students must present an official, current student ID with their name and school to the driver as they board the bus.

College of Charleston Students

The College of Charleston partners with CARTA to provide free service on all buses–including the Downtown Area Shuttles (DASH)-to all current students and employees. You must show a valid Cougar Card when boarding to ride for free. The campus shuttle schedule can be found here.

Children under six

Children under six years old can ride for free on CARTA regular routes and flex service but must be accompanied by a paying passenger.

Who is eligible for discounted rides on CARTA?

Low-Income Fares

Low-income fares of $1.25 per ride are available for qualifying individuals. If approved, the rider will receive a CARTA ID that must be shown when paying the discounted fare. Qualifications must be re-examined every six months and determinations are made at the SC Works Charleston Career Center.

Senior Citizens

Individuals 55 years and older can ride for a discounted fare of $1 during all service hours. Riders may be asked for proof of age in which case a Medicare card or I.D. with date of birth will be accepted. In addition, CARTA offers one ‘Senior FREE Ride Day’ each quarter where those 55 and older can ride for free on all service routes.

Individuals with Disabilities

Individuals with disabilities may qualify for $0.75 rides on regular fixed CARTA routes. To use this fare, riders must recieve a Disabled Fare ID Card from the SC Works Charleston Career Center. Passengers with a Tel-A-Ride I.D. card can ride fixed-routes for free.

Students (Non-College of Charleston)

Most student riders are eligible to get a semester (6-month period) worth of passes for just $80 per semester. Student passes allow unlimited rides on regular, fixed routes and can be used on premium services like CARTA Express for an addition $1.00. Passengers will be required to show a current school I.D. card.

Passes can be purchased at the CARTA offices in North Charleston, or on the following campuses:

  • Trident Technical College
  • Miller Motte Technical College
  • Charleston Southern University

CARTA buses operate seven days a week. For more information on routes and times, click here.