NEWBERRY — Traveling as far as Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia, the Newberry SmartRide bus program has been in operation for several years, helping community members on their daily commutes to work.
The program, originally beginning in 2006 as a pilot project funded by the S.C. Department of Transportation, was turned over to the Newberry County Council on Aging in 2009. The group is able to draw federal funds for the program, applying for a grant to receive funding.
Lynn Stockman with Newberry County Council on Aging estimates that 50 people from the community take part in the program each week.
Some of the pick-up stops include the Newberry Tractor Supply front parking lot, the Little Mountain gazebo, and the Chapin Exxon Station. Each stop is marked as a designated area sign for the SmartRide program.
The bus makes 11 stops within Columbia, and will travel as far as Richland Memorial Hospital if riders are present that need to head in that direction. Stockman said the bus travels down Bull Street, turning at Pendleton Street, heads toward Assembly Street and down to the SCDOT station, making six to eight stops in between.
Each stop in Columbia is approximately five to eight minutes apart. Morning stops are between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., depending on pick-up locations, with pick-up spots beginning between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday afternoons.
Stockman said what most people might not know is that the program does a free ticket exchange with The Connect buses in Columbia, which can easily be exchanged to travel to more places within the Columbia area.
Lessening commuting cars means better air quality, according to Stockman.
“When people have the opportunity to ride a bus, it’s better for everyone,” she said.
Although the south isn’t known for public transits, Stockman said other places support routes such as the SmartRide program to cut down on their traffic congestion.
Tickets for the bus routes can be purchased on the bus, with 12 tickets costing $30, which Stockman adds is cheaper than continuously putting gas into a vehicle.
For more information on the SmartRide program or the Newberry County Council on Aging, visit www.nccoa.org.
Elyssa Parnell can be reached at 803-276-0625, ext. 108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.