CARTA, Chattanooga State partnership provides free bus rides for students and staff

The CARTA bus that services Chattanooga State Community College travels north on Riverside Drive in 2019.
The CARTA bus that services Chattanooga State Community College travels north on Riverside Drive in 2019.

Chattanooga State Community College and Chattanooga's public transportation system restarted a free rideshare program under which Chattanooga State students, faculty and staff can ride the bus for free with a valid school identification card.

The program costs $35,000 and is entirely funded through federal coronavirus relief money, said Amanda Bennett, interim vice president for student affairs at Chattanooga State.

Bennett said Thursday that the program will address an increase in financial barriers for students due to the pandemic.

"That was one of the benefits of virtual instruction is that maybe we were more accessible, but as we resumed face-to-face instruction and we have students coming back to campus, we wanted to address the potential transportation barriers that may exist for our students," Bennett said.

For the upcoming term, Chattanooga State will have about 8,000 students enrolled, Bennett said, including students enrolled in the Tennessee College of Applied Technology there, making the cost of the program about $4.38 per student.

Bennett said it is difficult to gauge interest in the program since the previous rideshare program ended in 2012, but that Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority bus drivers will monitor usage so the school can determine if it will continue funding the program in the future.

The previous program lasted five years and started at $18,000 per year, but increased in cost over the years as ridership increased, CARTA Director of Communications and Planning Veronica Peebles said in a Thursday email to the Times Free Press.

"We anticipate that this program will be very much utilized by the Chattanooga State community as they have been interested in restoring it for several years," Peebles said. "We feel that it will have a positive impact and will remove the transportation barrier that their students and possibly some faculty and staff members had."

Along with Chattanooga State, Peebles said, a similar universal access program exists for the school community at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, along with a free campus shuttle.

CARTA waived fares for all riders in April 2020 as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. The fares were reinstated last month after a string of behavioral and health incidents on buses, leading to concerns among some residents about access to resources for vulnerable populations who rely on the buses.

The rideshare partnership with Chattanooga State runs through Aug. 31, 2022, and applies to all CARTA routes.

Contact Anika Chaturvedi at or 423-757-6592.

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