Service is recommended to start in smaller area of service before expanding outward
Community Development Director Kathy Jo Lancaster talked to Union County Council about a proposed transit pilot program. She said the goal is to have public transportation operating in Union County by the end of the year. To do that, SC DOT has grants available to help, but they require a 50% local match, up to $150,000 a year for the three-year pilot program. That money would help pay the operating costs of the program, and it would equate to the cost of the program minus fares charged, with that total divided in half. The county is looking to contract out the transit service with a company that is already providing service. The county would provide oversight of the program, and the contractor would supply the vehicles, drivers, and anything else that is needed.
Curtis Helms with SC DOT and Keith Scott, the former Director of Transportation for Anderson County were on hand. They said that demand often builds slowly, so that it can take 1.5 to 2 years to build to its full potential. They are recommending that the program begin with a 5-mile radius and then expand as the demand dictates. They said by starting in a smaller area and ensuring that public transit is done well there, it gives them a chance to get the program going and then expand outward to other more rural areas of the county. Most of the county’s population will be within the five-mile radius, which extends as far south as the Mt. Vernon subdivision off the Whitmire Highway, as far west as the Fairwood II subdivision off Highway 49 West, as far north as the intersection of Hwy. 176 and Oak Grove Road, and as far east as Highway 49 East at Browns Creek Church Road. It would encompass the entire City of Union and Buffalo. Service could later expand to Jonesville, Lockhart, Carlisle, West Springs, and other areas as demand for the service rises. The exact percentage of the county and its population that would be covered by the five-mile radius was not known at the time of the meeting, but council was told those figures would be calculated and given to them.
A final resolution to move forward with the project would not be voted on until at least the August meeting, and a public hearing would have to be held. Oversight would be done by a subcommittee of the Planning Commission, Lancaster said. Council was asked for initial approval of a local match for up to $150,000 a year for three years for the Transit Pilot Program, pending final approval of the program at a later date. Council voted to approve the matter, with David Sinclair abstaining because he was undecided on the matter.
We’ll have even more from the council meeting in future newscasts.