NEWBERRY COUNTY — Newberry County Democrats, meeting on Aug. 24, passed a resolution urging the S.C. Department of Transportation to fund the Newberry to Columbia commuter bus on a temporary basis at least until Jan. 1, 2018.
Under current plans, Smart Ride service in Newberry will be discontinued as of Sept. 1, 2017.
Known as Smartride, this us service transports commuters from Newberry, Little Mountain, and Chapin to Columbia and return.
Smartride passengers pay a daily transportation fare for using this commuter service. Starting in 2008, riders have been able to purchase advance tickets, paying $5 for a round trip. Tickets purchased on the day of travel cost $8 for a round trip. Similar programs exist in various other counties in the state.
Operated by the Council on Aging for Newberry County, the commuter bus service is separate and distinct from the Medicaid-funded medical transport service which provides transportation for Medicaid patients to and from medical appointments.
Since Smartride began in 2008, Smartride commuters have been very appreciative of SCDOT’s support of Smartride, which originally provided two morning round trips and two afternoon round trips to Columbia.
However, two years ago, SCDOT stopped funding for Smartride, and the Council on Aging for Newberry County has been providing the program money from its own funds.
This has been a severe burden on the Council on Aging’s financial resources, and commuter service was reduced to one morning trip to Columbia and one afternoon return trip to Chapin, Little Mountain, and Newberry.
In some metropolitan areas, such as Richland County and Charleston County, voters have approved a local option sales tax to provide bus transportation. However, a sales tax for commuter buses has not been approved in Newberry County. Because of the financial burden, the Council on Aging has decided it must withdraw its funding for Smartride.
The Newberry County Democrats resolution requests and urges the South Carolina Department of Transportation to locate and approve temporary financial support to continue the operation of the Smartride commuter bus service until at least January 1, 2018.
This would allow sufficient time to secure more permanent funding for the operation of Smartride. A copy of the resolution is being transmitted to Executive Director Christy Hall at the South Carolina DOT, and to Sen. Ronnie Cromer and Rep. Rick Martin.