Charleston Area Bus Service Giving Free Rides In May

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Residents in the Charleston area can ride buses for free beginning Sunday as the region’s public transportation system launches a campaign aimed at encouraging new ridership.

Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority officials said Thursday all bus rides will be free for the month of May as part of the agency’s “No Pay May” effort, which is also aimed at alleviating costs for those who regularly use public buses, The Post and Courier reported.

“It’s a really great way for us, at a time when people have many challenges ... to give back to our ridership and introduce CARTA to those who might not be riding it,” said Mike Seekings, board chairman for CARTA.

Riders will be allowed to use any of the system’s buses without paying the traditional $2 fare. The initiative, which is a first in CARTA’s history, will run through May 31.

The No Pay May project excludes CARTA OnDemand rides, which are contracted separately.

CARTA anticipates the initiative will prompt an uptick in ridership this spring after seeing a drop during the pandemic.

“This is one way — a pretty important way — we can move our ridership numbers toward pre-pandemic and beyond pre-pandemic numbers,” Seekings said.

In addition to waiving bus fares, CARTA has made other adjustments this year to make transportation more convenient.

CARTA and TriCounty Link announced April 10 a partnership with Token Transit, a free mobile ticketing application that gives riders a cashless payment option and eliminates the need for a paper pass. Riders now have the ability to buy digital bus passes using credit or debit cards via the Token Transit app. Fares paid for through the app can be used at the time of purchase or stored for later use and activation. Cash payments and paper passes will continue to be accepted.