Tips For Navigating Public Transportation: Charleston’s CARTA Bus System & What This Means For Sustainability

Author: Hanna Giblin

Did You Know That CofC Students Can Ride All CARTA & DASH buses for free? When getting on a bus, simply show your student ID and you can enjoy free public transportation throughout downtown Charleston & surrounding areas!


Reducing harmful greenhouse gas production by making our transportation systems more efficient is a crucial part of sustainability and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our SDG guideline 11.2 for urban transportation aims to provide, “access to safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable transport systems for all.”


As students, it is great to have this transportation service available to us for free, but even for non-students the buses offer low ticket & bus pass prices and flexible pricing options for low-income individuals and seniors. 


Owning your own vehicle can get very expensive, and urban areas like Charleston experience heavy traffic congestion and have very limited parking availability. So, not only does a decision to utilize public transportation help support sustainability efforts, it has personal benefits as well. Here are just a few tips on how to best utilize this public transportation service and become a bus-riding pro.


Tips For Using Public Transportation:

  1. Get the Transit App
  • This app works similar to Google/Apple maps and allows you to:
  • Find which bus routes to take based on your current and target destination 
  • Check real-time updates of the location of your bus, changes to the schedule, and other important service alerts
  • Set alarms to remind you to leave to catch the bus
  • Use step-by-step directions about when to leave and what stop to get off at
  • Plan a trip and compare transportation options


  1. Get to your stop at least 5 minutes early in case the bus runs slightly ahead of schedule. 
  2. If traveling for work or an event, make sure to give yourself enough time for transportation if the bus arrives late or there is heavy traffic.
  3. When waiting for the bus, signal to the bus driver as the bus approaches to ensure you are picked up.
  • Busy bus routes may not completely stop at less popular stops if the driver does not see anyone waiting and if the bus is running behind schedule. 
  • Make sure to stand / sit close to the bus stop sign as the bus approaches and gesture to the driver to get their attention.
  1. About 1 block before you are wanting to get off the bus notify the driver you will be getting off at the next stop
  • CARTA buses often have black/yellow strips you can push, or a cord above your head to pull to let the driver know to stop.
  1. Exit through the side / rear door of the bus 
  • Oncoming passengers will enter through the front doors, so using the side door prevents any problems getting on or off the bus. 
  1. Bring hand sanitizer or wipes! It is always a good idea to sanitize your hands / your surrounding area when in a public place.


It is important to recognize that providing public transportation is a key component of promoting sustainability in an urban environment. However, we must also identify the problems in our systems in an attempt to continuously improve. As buses and transport vehicles get older they may run less efficiently and create more emissions, and a complicated urban transportation system leaves the buses not always arriving on time. However, public transportation and bus use is generally far more sustainable than relying on individual car-transportation methods simply by transporting more people with fewer vehicles. Public efforts can encourage the city to use more eco-friendly buses and maintain strong emissions regulations. As with all of our systems in society, there is much work to be done to create sustainably-run systems, but our own education and advocacy is a crucial first step towards a more sustainable future.


We hope the tips in this article help you navigate a seemingly daunting public transportation system. Stay safe, and happy traveling!



CARTA- Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority 

DASH- Downtown Area Shuttles