CARTA plans to ramp up downtown shuttle service this summer

Staff Photo by Olivia Ross / A shuttle rides along Broad Street on March 7.

Starting in May and continuing through at least August, the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority expects to boost the frequency of its downtown shuttle service from every 15 minutes to approximately every seven minutes in preparation for a summer upswing in demand.

CARTA's director of communications and planning, Veronica Peebles, said in an interview Thursday that she anticipates the increased availability will start in early May. The system typically sees a seasonal uptick in ridership around Memorial Day, which this year is May 29.

"This will continue on through August," she said. "We hope to maintain the manpower to continue with that because for many, many years, we always had a seven- to eight-minute frequency on the downtown shuttle year-round, but we're definitely prepared for that for the summer."

Peebles said downtown business slowed during the pandemic, and many larger employers are still working remotely, which no longer warranted a higher frequency of shuttle service at every stop.

(READ MORE: CARTA director stepping down, reflects on decade running Chattanooga's public transit agency)

Turnover among drivers has also affected both fixed route service and the downtown shuttle, she said. CARTA has six drivers operating its downtown shuttle service, a number that it plans to bring to nine or 10 as the system looks to ramp up the frequency of routes.

"Needless to say, we want to get back to that as well as restore the pre-pandemic operating hours that we're used to," she said.

CARTA officials also plan to extend the shuttle's weekday operating hours by an hour so that it ends at 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, which was the schedule before the pandemic.

Additionally, CARTA expects to enhance the frequency of its Eastgate-Hamilton Place fixed route from 30 minutes to 20 minutes starting in May. That's the system's longest and most productive bus line, Peebles said.

Before the pandemic, CARTA was maintaining a frequency of every 15 minutes on that bus route during high-demand periods on weekdays, Peebles said. Amid employee shortages, the transit service ultimately scaled that back to 30 minutes, Peebles said, but officials are increasing the level of service as manpower begins to stabilize.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga mayor overhauls makeup of CARTA board)

In February, the Hamilton Place route provided 24,501 rides, according to data reported at a CARTA board of directors meeting Thursday. The system's second-most used route last month was for the Alton Park area, which had a ridership of 9,853 people.

Across the system, total year-to-date ridership is up 2.9% compared to last year -- 1,104,208 rides through February of fiscal year 2023 versus 1,073,309 in 2022. Shuttle ridership, meanwhile, is up 18.4% year-to-date over the same period -- 142,729 in 2023 versus 120,535 in 2022.

(READ MORE: Man charged after CARTA bus carjacking in Chattanooga)

Contact David Floyd at or 423-757-6249.