Rutherford County Transit ridership increases 48 percent
BY SCOTT CARPENTER email@example.com
When the Rutherford County Transit's fixed bus route, which runs though Rutherfordton, Spindale, and Forest City on a set schedule was first established, the fare was $1. While the route was popular, its ridership has increased dramatically since becoming a free service in October, 2015. Transit officials say that since that time, as of the end of the last fiscal year (June 30), ridership is up 48 percent.
The service became “fare free” on a trial basis, and saw an immediate increase. Officials decided to keep the service free as more citizens use it.
Rutherford County Transit was established in 1990 and is a self-funded department within Rutherford County government. The increased ridership on the fixed bus route, makes it easier to obtain grant funding for the transit service. Officials say it more than offsets the loss of funds that were collected when the service charged a fare.
“County leadership is pleased to see that our transit services are being utilized and that our ridership continues to expand,” said County Manger Steve Garrison. “Providing this service ensures that we continue to play a vital role in transporting our customers to critical medical appointments, to their places of employment, and to commercial businesses.”
“Providing core transportation services is also very critical for families that are focused on managing their budgets, which creates an exponential economic impact benefiting local businesses,” Garrison added.
County Commission Chairman Bryan King said “One of the County Commission goals is to improve the quality of life for our citizens. I applaud the transit officials and the county manager for implementing this.”
King said the bus service improves the lives of the people who use it.
“This is a service that is important. And it is a win-win for all involved,” King added. “I am pleased to see that it is such as success.”
Among the numerous pre-set stops along the bus route are places like Rutherford County Courthouse, various grocery stores and shopping centers including Fred's and WalMart, the Rutherford Community Health Center in Spindale, and several apartment communities.
Transit officials have described the service as similar to a typical urban bus route, except that this service is “deviated.” This means that if requested, and it is feasible, drivers may deviate up to one-half mile off the set route to pick someone up or let them off the bus.
The Rutherford County Transit's budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year is $1,389,692. No county tax dollars are used for transit, as the department is funded through state and federal transportation grants.