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Larger buses coming
PART ridership keeps growing
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Piedmont Area Regional Transit (PART) is getting two new, slightly larger buses as the number of rides provided by the service continues to increase.
The two existing buses have 14 seats each and space for a wheelchair. They will be replaced by the new buses, each of which will have 20 seats and a wheelchair space, according to Henry County Planning Director Lee Clark. The new buses are expected to arrive by late spring.
Each bus costs $60,000. The federal government will contribute $96,000 toward the vehicles’ combined $120,000 cost. The state will give $18,000. The remaining $6,000 will be split by the county, Martinsville and RADAR, a Roanoke-based service that runs PART — each will pay $2,000, Clark said.
Statistics reveal that in the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, PART provided area residents a total of 28,449 rides, an increase of 5,887 (26 percent) from the previous year.
Among both buses, the average number of rides per day increased from 89 in fiscal 2012 to 113 in fiscal 2013, figures show.
A monthly record was set in September as a total of 2,862 rides were given by the buses. That averaged 130 rides a day, according to the statistics.
The previous monthly record was in April, when a total of 2,637 rides were provided, statistics show.
Of the 28,449 rides provided in the past year, 16,199 were by the city bus and 12,250 were by the county bus, figures indicate.
The ride total included 11,953 for seniors, 15,459 for other adults, 562 for children, 61 for people in wheelchairs and 414 for escorts of other riders who needed them, according to the statistics, which did not distinguish age levels of the wheelchair riders and escorts.
In terms of numbers, rides are measured instead of riders because a person can ride the buses more than one time during a month.
Clark said RADAR is limited in the types of information it can legally gather from riders, so he did not have socioeconomic data on them.
Yet as far as needing the buses to get around the community, he said, “a lot of people tell me they don’t know what they would do without the system.”
Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins said the buses likely help a lot of people travel to and from their jobs, which keeps them employed.
A lack of transportation is “the No. 1 reason for people losing their jobs,” said Adkins, who was executive director of the West Piedmont Workforce Investment Board before she recently started a consulting business.
Each bus makes stops at predetermined locations that have proven popular among riders, including government offices, major businesses and shopping areas.
Martinsville’s bus has 15 stops citywide, including Liberty Fair Mall, Patrick Henry Mall, the Social Security Office, Henry-Martinsville Social Services, the municipal building and American National University (formerly National College).
Henry County’s route has 11 stops, including Walmart, Lowes, the county administration building, Patrick Henry Community College, the Tienda Store, Collinsville Shopping Center and the Dutch Inn.
It costs about $205,000 a year to operate the bus system. The county and city equally split the local share of the cost, and each are paying a little more than $28,000 in the current fiscal year, Clark said. The rest of the cost is paid by the federal and state governments, he noted.
As the number of rides provided by the buses grows, “I have no doubt the demand is there” for a third bus that would run a route among the city and county, Clark said.
But the localities “can’t afford to fund it on our own,” and there is little chance of getting more federal and state funds annually, he said.
The localities do well to keep their existing funds from those sources, he emphasized.