Charleston adds free trolley rides

FREE TROLLEYS IN DOWNTOWN CHARLESTON: It's now a little easier to get around Charleston for residents and the 5 million visitors drawn each year to this city of quiet gardens and pastel buildings.

Since Nov. 22, there have been no fares charged on the green trolley buses with the wooden trim that travel the Charleston peninsula.

The free service will encourage the use of public transportation and make it easier for visitors to get around, the mayor said.

"It will take cars off the street. It will alleviate parking challenges and it will make the historic and business district of this national treasure, Charleston, more conveniently accessible," Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said. "We believe this will be transformative."

The local transit authority is providing the trolleys, but the $416,000 a year for the service is being picked up by the city, S.C. State Ports Authority and the local convention and visitors bureau.

Helen Hill, the executive director of the visitors bureau, said the money is an investment in tourism. Tourism is an $18 billion industry in South Carolina.

"It makes a lot of sense with the economy like this. We want to encourage people to be out and to be shopping and dining," she said. "Our goal is to get visitors to get out of their cars and enjoy our area by walking."

Cruise visitors will be able to catch a trolley at the terminal and easily travel throughout the city.

This year was the first year-round cruising season from Charleston.

With a growing cruise industry, the authority is making plans to create a new cruise terminal and open another half-mile of Charleston's historic waterfront to the public.

The trolleys loop every 10 minutes; there are no delays from drivers handling fares.

Details, schedules and route maps of Charleston's transit system: www.ridecarta .com .