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PART buses to add stop at social services

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Area residents soon will be able to take a bus to Henry-Martinsville Social Services.

But another stop will be eliminated to accommodate social services as the number of rides provided by Piedmont Area Regional Transit (PART) rises.

Beginning Monday, PART buses will stop at the social services building on Progress Drive, off Clearview Drive in Martinsville, each hour at 17 minutes past the hour between 8:17 a.m. and 5:17 p.m., Monday through Friday.

PART recently placed a petition at social services to gather signatures of agency clients wanting to see a bus stop placed there.

Forty-three people signed the petition during a 30-day period. That shows social services is "a point in the community where we need to provide public transportation to" and from, said Henry County Planning Director Lee Clark.

If everyone who signed the petition uses the bus to get to social services, the agency will be one of the most used stops on the route, Clark said.

"With the economy the way it is, people will take advantage" of the stop, said Social Services Director Amy Tuttle, noting that many of the agency's clients need transportation to the agency and elsewhere.

"It costs a lot of money to maintain a car" today, and many clients cannot afford the expense, Tuttle said. They spend money only for basic household needs, such as food, and "sometimes they don't have the money for that," she added.

To accommodate the social services stop, the current stop at the Edwards Adult Day Care Center and The Grace Network on Commonwealth Boulevard will be eliminated. Clark said that has been the least used stop along the city route - only 15 riders used it during a 30-day period that ended in August.

Executives with the day care center and The Grace Network could not be reached for comment Monday.

Funded jointly by Henry County and Martinsville, PART is run by RADAR, a nonprofit organization based in Roanoke.

PART runs two buses in the county and city. Each weekday, each bus makes five loops through each locality, stopping at various points. A bus schedule is online at www.henrycountyva.gov and www.martinsville-va.gov.

The number of rides provided by the buses generally has risen, with only a few months seeing drops, since the service was launched in January 2009.

In the month preceding Aug. 25, a record total of 1,187 rides were given, with an average of about 52 rides each day, Clark said.

The number of rides given was up from 945 as of July 30. That was down from 1,175 in June, but up from 892 rides last December, statistics show.

Clark said he thinks the bus service is growing more and more popular as a result of "word of mouth advertising."�

"Once people try it and realize how convenient it is, they tell their friends and neighbors," he said.

A ride costs 50 cents.

Ridership figures fluctuate from month to month, and there is not always an obvious reason why, Clark said. Sometimes bad weather seems to keep riders away, he said.

Also, the bus system operates on more days during some months than in others, depending on the number of weekdays in the month, he added.

However, it was determined that the decline in rides from June to July was due largely to fewer students using the bus to get to and from Patrick Henry Community College during the summer semester, Clark said.

Bus stops at Lowe's and Walmart, which are side by side on Commonwealth Boulevard just outside the city limits, are the most used stops in the county with a combined 18 percent of riders boarding or departing there, Clark said. PHCC, the next busiest stop in the county, is used by 7.5 percent of riders.

In the city, the municipal building uptown is the most popular stop, used by 9.4 percent of riders, followed by the stops at Pony Place and Roundabout Road, used by a combined 9 percent of riders, according to Clark.

The social services stop was added because of a need, but county and city officials are satisfied with current stops, and there are no plans to add more, Clark said. To do so would require eliminating other stops to have a convenient, hour-long loop through either the county or city, he said.

The county route runs through Collinsville and nearby areas. Officials have received requests for bus service in southern areas of the county, but that would require another bus, and the county and city currently do not have enough money to expand the fleet, Clark said.

 

 
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