June 04--ANDERSON -- The county and city of Anderson got a step closer Tuesday to creating a new, more limited, bus route that will serve some stops along U.S. 76.
The Anderson County Council voted 6-1 to approve a bus-route agreement with the city, but county officials modified the proposal before they voted on it. The Anderson City Council is expected to consider the agreement next week.
The new route, which would be served by Electric City Transit of Anderson, is intended to be a partial replacement of the long-standing 4U route, which the county plans to terminate at the end of June. Whereas the 4U route allows riders to go from the Walmart on Liberty Highway in Anderson to Clemson University for free, the new U.S. 76 route will take riders only as far as Tri-County Technical College's Pendleton campus, and they will have to pay to make the trip. County officials say they hope to have the new route in place July 1.
The agreement on the shorter route says the county will be responsible for 20 percent of Electric City Transit's overall operations and maintenance costs because the new route will use one of the city's five buses. The county will also have to pay 8 percent of the city transit system's administrative costs. The city agrees to seek federal money to pay for a new bus and the county agrees that it will provide matching money required under any grants received.
Either the city or the county can terminate the agreement without penalties, as long as the party that wants to end the deal gives six months' notice.
County council member Cindy Wilson made a motion to amend the agreement in several ways. She wanted to incorporate city and county projections that show the annual cost of the route will be $250,000 for each of the next two years.
Those same projections show that if the city and county are able to get the grants they hope for, along with a $50,000 contribution from Tri-County Tech each year, the county would have to find about $29,000 to pay for the new route during the 2014-15 fiscal year. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the county would have to allocate another $29,000 from the general fund and would also be responsible for a $70,000 grant match to pay for a new bus.
The county will get monthly reports about the route from the city, under the terms of Wilson's motion. Further, if the county's costs increase beyond the projected figures, such a spike would trigger automatic fare increases on the U.S. 76 route. As fares are currently proposed, most riders would pay 50 cents, while students, the elderly and the disabled would pay a quarter.
Wilson's motion to amend the agreement was approved 6-1, with council member Gracie Floyd casting the opposing vote. When the council voted on the amended agreement, that was also approved 6-1, with council member Eddie Moore in opposition.
The new route, which will be called the Orange Route, will operate 12 hours a day on weekdays.
Some residents are still voicing opposition to the county's decision to end the long-standing 4U route.
Julie Lassiter, a visiting assistant professor at Clemson University who lives in Anderson and rides the bus to work, asked the county to keep the existing 4U route because leaders made a commitment to residents when they started the service more than a decade ago.
"It seems to me that we are failing in our responsibility if we suddenly deprive those who have come to depend on the bus as a way of getting to work, to school, to doctors' appointments and to stores," Lassiter said.
A study conducted on behalf of the transit system shows that 53 percent of the riders on the 4U route are workers and another 40 percent are students, with elderly people making up the balance. The 4U is used by than 150,000 riders each year.
The county approached the city of Anderson about creating a different route last fall, but the content of those discussions was not made public until a February county council retreat.
One of the chief complaints that some county council members have had about Clemson Area Transit is that the system does not allow riders to be charged. There are no fare boxes on any CAT buses. Charging riders on the U.S. 76 route will generate an estimated $20,000 annually.
Some council members have said they have gotten complaints from some constituents who don't want to have their tax money subsidizing a bus service. Max Fleming of Anderson said he doesn't want his tax money to go toward it.
"Why should I have to pay for somebody else to go to work?" he asked. "If they don't want to pay to ride to work, let them walk or hitchhike."
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