Charleston, S.C., Transit System to Build New Hub

Vegetation and rubble covers most of the land, and some deserted buildings are visible in the distance, but CARTA sees much more than just an abandoned mobile home park off Montague Avenue at Seiberling Road.

Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority envisions a mass transit hub where passenger trains, Greyhound buses, area taxis and airport shuttles would one day converge.

CARTA broke ground Wednesday at the North Charleston site and is spending about $1.9 million to have the property cleared and build a park-and-ride lot.

About 40 people attended the short ceremony to kick off construction on the land, which spans more than 30 acres. The site is less than a half mile from the Charleston Area Convention Center, and the Charleston International Airport is also nearby.

The park-and-ride lot should be done in about six months, but it is unknown when the hub will be built, because CARTA doesn't have the money needed to build it.

In the spring, the transit authority asked the Federal Transit Administration for $7.4 million to build the terminal station but found out recently that all earmarked federal money for transportation would go to six larger cities.

"We thought we had a good chance," Executive Director Howard Chapman said.

Chapman said they will keep seeking federal funds but also hope to partner with private developers who would build the station and could lease out some of the retail space in return.

Conceptual plans for the transit hub show tree-lined entrances off Dorchester Road and Montague Avenue. There would be large reflecting pools, maybe 10 parking lots and roughly 300,000 square feet of office and retail space.

The total cost for the project is estimated at $18 million.

Plans to develop a central transit depot have been in the works for more than a decade. North Charleston officials first thought of the idea, and for many of them at the ground-breaking ceremony it has been a long time coming since the project materialized.

Mayor Keith Summey, also a CARTA board member, said he hopes the transportation hub will draw more travelers to the Lowcountry and encourage commuters passing through to stop here.