Southern city uses trolleys to attract riders
Charleston, S.C., has begun using trolleys downtown to encourage ridership on public transportation and to complement the city’s historic atmosphere. The trolleys have become popular ways for tourists and residents to navigate the city.
Since the Civil War, Charleston has attracted tourists by promoting itself as one of America’s most historic cities. For years, visitors came to see Fort Sumter, where the first shot of the Civil War was fired; plantations; flower gardens; and the downtown area. By the mid-’70s, however, the growth in tourism threatened the peaceful atmosphere that initially attracted people. City officials had to deal with issues of congestion, parking and traffic that came with heavy tourism.
In 1991, the city established a Visitor Reception and Transportation Center in the heart of the city’s historic upper King Street district. Setting up the Visitor Center in the renovated South Carolina Railroad Freight Depot Building made public transportation more accessible than ever before. However, the city still needed to make bus rides appealing.
The city purchased 10 American Heritage Streetcars from Wichita, Kan.-based Chance Coach. “The trolleys were not only a perfect complement to the city’s historic atmosphere, but they have a lot of rider appeal that helped us convince tourists and locals alike to park their cars and ride public transportation,” says Howard Chapman, executive director of the Charleston Regional Transit Authority. The trolleys were so successful during the first few years of operation that the city added 11 more to its fleet in 2000.
“Ridership has been far higher than our original expectations,” Chapman says. “People now even take a trolley to lunch or to a doctor’s appointment. [The trolleys] have really become an important part of Charleston’s way of life.”