CARTA’s Beach Reach shuttle closing out season on Labor Day after ‘successful’ first year

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Monday was the last day for riders to use CARTA’s ‘Beach Reach’ shuttle to get to a beach on the Isle of Palms. The free shuttle was brought back this year after nearly a decade in hopes of making it easier for the Lowcountry residents and guests to reach the beach. Officials say overall, the first year was successful.

The shuttle service ran from Memorial Day to Labor Day this summer after a trial run during the fall of 2020. It’s the first time with a beach shuttle service after nearly a decade without one. Officials say the ‘Beach Reach’ program is their hope for a long term solution.

It’s a free ride to the beach for Lowcountry residents and guests in an effort to reduce traffic and parking headaches for beach goers. CARTA Board Chairman Mike Seekings says the results are clear.

“We feel great about it,” says Seekings. “This summer was a success by every measure. The service was there, it was reliable, it was for people to use.”

The shuttle service helped put a little slice of beach paradise within reach for people from across Charleston County who struggle to find a way to the beach. But like everything, the shuttle service has some growing pains in its first year back.

“It’s been a learning process, we’re very happy that we did it,” says Seekings, who also serves as a City Councilman over District 8 for the City of Charleston. “We will be talking to our member jurisdictions and riders to make sure we can improve on it for next year but I think you will see this as a regular part of our routine.”

Seekings says the program was as successful as possible in it’s initial year coming with hiccups during a pandemic. Seekings says CARTA’s buses were able to carry hundreds to and from the beach.

“We need to up our ridership, we know that but you’ve got to start somewhere and all in all I think this was a very successful program that you will see more of expanded,” says Seekings.

Seekings says through the shuttle service, some made their first trip to the beach in years. For others, it was their first time visiting the sandy shores ever. Many of the stories were shared with CARTA’s drivers over the summer.

“And it just made it a stress free, fun day at the beach and we heard that from a number of people in the community,” says Seekings.

Seekings is hopeful the program can eventually connect Charleston County to Sullivan’s Island, Folly Beach and more with successful expansion once some kinks are worked out.

“We want to make sure we get it right and we’ve got the equipment to service it and that it’s reliable so far and we learned this summer that yes it is,” says Seekings.

For now, a last ride in 2021 with many more to come in 2022 and beyond all in an effort to help people reach the beach.

“Great start, we’re happy with it and we look forward to expanding that service, well continuing that service and expanding it to other parts of the county,” says Seekings.

CARTA and Lowocuntry officials plan to meet in the coming weeks to discuss how the program went this summer and identify where officials believe improvements can be made before hopefully expanding the service to other parts of Charleston County next summer.