monsoon

Transit Agencies in South Carolina

104 posts in this topic

I was in Charleston a few weeks ago and the one thing that caught my eye is how well they are doing these days with their bus system. It seems to offer a lot more coverage than it did in years past, there were very frequent buses, and they seemed well utilized. It was a nice thing to see in a metro that has gone too far towards auto-centric development.

So I was curious and looked up some transit data for SC's 3 largest cities and was surprised to find the following from 2006.

Ridership 2006

  • Charleston - 14.5M
  • Columbia-13.5M
  • Greenville-3.9M

I am not sure where to get more up to date info, but I suspect that Charleston is doing a lot more traffic than the 14.5M from 2006.

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I'm not sure which information is correct, but I recently looked into this information and found this and posted it in the Greenville Transit thread HERE .

Those numbers do seem awfully high to me.

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Does Charleston have tourist oriented bus lines - such as fake trolleys? That should be a no-brainer to anyone visiting the peninsula if a tourist loop exists. I don't recall seeing one the last time I was in Charleston, but we were also riding our bikes when we were there.

Regarding Columbia - can I assume there are college students taking the bus to the malls for shopping? Otherwise, that is a pretty healthy number just for 2006.

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This is an interesting topic. I'd like to point out that the numbers you posted are actually the annual passenger miles (how far people traveled), not the annual ridership (how many people traveled). The best place to get transit data is the National Transit Database, which has stats for every transit agency in the United States. In South Carolina, they have all of them except Clemson's CATbus, which does not report its data for some reason.

Here's a link to the section with South Carolina's data (just scroll down): National Transit Database

The data for 2007 has not been posted yet for all systems, but I suspect that you will see a healthy increase across the board. Charleston will probably have the largest increase because they are the only transit agency to add lines (commuter buses). Columbia and Greenville have both cut lines and/or service. To be fair to Columbia, Lexington County decided to stop funding the Lexington County bus routes, so they got cut. Greenville recently got the bus back up to where it was a couple of years ago in terms of coverage.

Agencies:

Anderson - Electric City Transit (ECT)

Charleston - Charleston Area RTA (CARTA)

Clemson - Clemson Area Transit (CAT/CATbus)

Columbia - Central Midlands RTA (CMRTA)

Florence - Pee Dee RTA (PDRTA)

Greenville - Greenlink formerly Greenville Transit Agency (GTA)

Hilton Head Island - Lowcountry RTA (LMRTA)

Myrtle Beach - Coast RTA

Spartanburg - Spartanburg Area Regional Transit Agency (SPARTA) & Spartanburg County Transportation Bureau (SCTB)

Sumter - Santee-Wateree RTA (SWRTA)

2006 Statistics:

Ridership

Charleston 2,763,723

Columbia 2,548,769

Greenville 904,354

Spartanburg 785,745

Florence 642,194

Myrtle Beach 500,096

Sumter 260,913

Passenger Miles

Charleston 14,571,671

Columbia 13,493,155

Florence 8,221,280

Spartanburg 6,130,842

Greenville 3,896,150

Sumter 3,170,640

Myrtle Beach 2,330,036

You have to take into account several conditions with these numbers. Not all systems are the same. 1) The PDRTA out of Florence serves the ENTIRE Pee Dee area, so the Passenger Miles are high while their actual ridership is quite low. 2) Greenville has the opposite problem. They have high ridership, but the people don't go very far because the system is so anemic. 3) Spartanburg has 2 transit systems, SPARTA, which is the bus service you see around town, and then the Spartanburg County Transportation Bureau, which services the county's point to point transit needs (most transit systems have this included in their primary agency)... so I've added Spartanburg's systems together to give you a better comparison of what is really going on there.

What is scary is that with the exception of Charleston and Columbia, no city is making a sincere effort to improve transit. Greenville is trying to get theirs up to what it should be and that should be commended for getting where they are, and for their vision or BRT. Spartanburg will continue to maintain the status quo, but there is NO talk about expansion or improving what is there.

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Does Charleston have tourist oriented bus lines - such as fake trolleys? ...
I don't think so, or at least I didn't see any beyond the horse carriage/omnibus. Myrtle Beach could really benefit from a tourist oriented bus line. Unfortunately for them, their transit agency has been rocked by scandal and they have taken recent steps to make bus service less reliable and convenient.

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.....

What is scary is that with the exception of Charleston and Columbia, no city is making a sincere effort to improve transit. ....

I had assumed this to be the case. It's really a shame given where gasoline is going these days.

You were right about my mistake, I pulled the data directly from the NTDB and got the wrong column. What impressed me about Charleston was the fact there seemed to be good bus coverage all the way out to N. Charleston. It will be interesting to see their 2007 numbers.

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I think that there is a city-sponsored tourist trolley that runs from the French Quarter to the Battery. The College Charleston also operates a bus service for its students.

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Hi everybody. First time poster here. I caught this article from an alert on transit systems popping up on my screen. Speaking of Charleston, it looks like they may have another option to cure their population woes if they get their infrastructure setup correctly: http://shemcreeksc.com/blog/america-could-...transit-system/

The article is titled America.... but then focuses on the Charleston area specifically I guess because it originates from that area. Anyway, if America were ever to use a dual mode vehicle system like this, especially one powered off of hydrogen or some other non oil-dependent derivative, that would be an awesome day! Unfortunately, I don't see that happening anytime soon. My 2c.

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I was in Charleston this past weekend, and also noticed they had a great bus system. The signs marking where the buses stopped were also pretty visible and well placed.

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I wish CAT would have submitted their data. The miles covered by that system must be large (as well as the rider numbers).

I wonder what the budgets are for the individual systems?

Can anyone take a stab at when the City of Greenville is hoping to have the BRT system running its first line? With the first homes, developments (retirement community), and offices currently being built at Verdae, a "transit ready" community in the works along the line, and more and more offices being built and occupied at CU-ICAR/Millenium Campus/Carolina First, it seems like other factors are falling into place for the system to begin and be sustainable. I would think that late 2009 would be a decent guess if things really picked up in terms of building the surface for the route and planning stops, etc... but I have no idea...

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As far as I know, the BRT is still very conceptual. It will be a long time before BRT is built. I say that because while Greenville has the vision, they do not have the money in place to build their vision. At least not yet.

Clemson's system is a bit of an anomaly. They have a fairly low number of route miles (how far the buses travel), and they have a fairly high #of actual riders each year. They get their "#1 in SC" because this situation puts their passenger-miles (passengers per mile) through the roof.

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I updated my other post with links to transit agency websites, and I added some others. The NTD is a good database, but it doesn't have everything. In addition to Clemson it doesn't have Anderson and Hilton Head.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is another good source for transit data. They have a list of transit agencies by county for every county in the state. Its worth a look, as they have a few other smaller ones that I did not list because they are paratransit agencies, which don't operate fixed bus routes like we are accustomed to.

Also, budget information can be found at the NTD link that I posted earlier.

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......

Can anyone take a stab at when the City of Greenville is hoping to have the BRT system running its first line? .....

It will never happen without a decent bus system first. The FTA will not fund transit lines in cities that do not support bus transit first. Sounds as if Greenville isn't doing a very good job at it.

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Can anyone take a stab at when the City of Greenville is hoping to have the BRT system running its first line? With the first homes, developments (retirement community), and offices currently being built at Verdae, a "transit ready" community in the works along the line, and more and more offices being built and occupied at CU-ICAR/Millenium Campus/Carolina First, it seems like other factors are falling into place for the system to begin and be sustainable. I would think that late 2009 would be a decent guess if things really picked up in terms of building the surface for the route and planning stops, etc... but I have no idea...

Somewhere around 2010-2011 is when the city hopes to have the BRT line implemented. It's 10-20% local funding with 80-90% federal funding.

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Somewhere around 2010-2011 is when the city hopes to have the BRT line implemented. It's 10-20% local funding with 80-90% federal funding.

Thanks. That sounds like a good time frame.

Monsoon- The City of Greenville took over its bus system in April. They have a clear vision for the system to be implemented over the next few months/years (some of which has already been put in place). It's in the works and the City of Greenville is doing a pretty decent job so far, I think.

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It all goes back to money. It all depends on how Greenville can come up with funding for its transit system. If they can find it, then you could see BRT in 2010. But IMO, it will take longer than that since nobody seems willing to find transit.

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One thing that Charleston has done is to establish "express" buses that run from the Super Kmart in North Charleston at a huge park and ride lot. It has been so successful that it is being extended up to Summerville. I believe this is a forerunner to a full fledged commuter rail system from Summerville to Downtown that is being pushed heavily by all the mayors. Another line may run up through Goose Creek to Moncks Corner.

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....

Monsoon- The City of Greenville took over its bus system in April. They have a clear vision for the system to be implemented over the next few months/years (some of which has already been put in place). It's in the works and the City of Greenville is doing a pretty decent job so far, I think.

The FTA will require Greenville to model cost effectiveness based on ridership of the BRT over normal bus service before they will even consider funding. And that assumes they have already maxed out normal bus service. If there is not a robust bus service in place first, then there won't be any funding forthcoming from them.

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The FTA will require Greenville to model cost effectiveness based on ridership of the BRT over normal bus service before they will even consider funding. And that assumes they have already maxed out normal bus service. If there is not a robust bus service in place first, then there won't be any funding forthcoming from them.

Also, the county currently owns the rail line the city plans to put the BRT line on and some members on county council don't want to give up the rail line. Luckily, the majority of county council is for the plan. There are still several pieces of red tape the city will have to go through though like getting federal funding to make this BRT line work and be successful.

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The FTA will require Greenville to model cost effectiveness based on ridership of the BRT over normal bus service before they will even consider funding. And that assumes they have already maxed out normal bus service. If there is not a robust bus service in place first, then there won't be any funding forthcoming from them.

Sure, and it's a couple of years out. The plan is in place and this is clearly enough time to achieve what is needed. Whether it will or will not happen is unknown, and the City's efforts as the leaders are in its infant stage and it cannot be said yet whether a good job is or is NOT being done.

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....cannot be said yet whether a good job is or is NOT being done.

905K riders in a year is pretty dismal for one of the highest populated counties in the state. There will have to be a remarkable turnaround in ridership numbers that is going to take significant investment in the bus system for that to happen.

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905K riders in a year is pretty dismal for one of the highest populated counties in the state. There will have to be a remarkable turnaround in ridership numbers that is going to take significant investment in the bus system for that to happen.

Greenville County is the most populated county in SC, by a longshot - which makes the transit statistics even more pathetic.

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905K riders in a year is pretty dismal for one of the highest populated counties in the state. There will have to be a remarkable turnaround in ridership numbers that is going to take significant investment in the bus system for that to happen.

Like I said, it's a work in progress. In case you can't read, they've been in control for two months now and no numbers showing progress have been reported yet. Those are for GTA, not GreenLink. And while yes, that's a pathetic number, that system that posted those numbers no longer exists.

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Its true that GTA doesn't exist, but the routes and schedules that Greenlink provides are virtually identical to what GTA provided. Its still a valid comparison.

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Another comparison. Mecklenburg county has roughly 2X the population of Greenville county. However using the statistic above, Mecklenburg had a bus riderhip of 21M/year as opposed to Greenville's 905K in 2006. Of late Charlotte area transit says that daily ridership is now somewhere between 25M - 26M.

This is important to understand because at the moment, Charlotte is the only city in the Carolinas to have managed to get federal funding for a dedicated transit line. (South LRT) Charlotte was able to make a case for doing this because they spent a decade making very significant investments in bus service in order to improve ridership. It takes a long time and a lot of money to do this.

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