June 10--Electric City Transit of Anderson will operate a new, limited "Orange Route" for Upstate bus riders who use some stops along U.S. 76, according to an agreement approved Monday.
Officials from the county and city of Anderson have discussed the potential bus route since last fall, after the county began looking for alternatives to the long-standing 4U route. 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 Orange Route will take riders only as far as Tri-County Technical College's Pendleton campus, and they will have to pay.
The Anderson City Council unanimously approved an agreement Monday that will set up the Orange Route, and officials say they hope the bus service will be in place July 1.
The Anderson County Council voted on the bus agreement last Tuesday, but modified it before it went back to the city. The city agreed to the county's changes, including incorporating a projected budget for the first two years of the route.
The Orange Route will run weekdays for 12 hours a day, and adult riders will pay 50 cents. Discounts are offered for students, the disabled and elderly riders, who will pay 25 cents per trip. The beginning and end of the route will still be the Walmart on Liberty Highway in Anderson.
Keith Scott, the director of Electric City Transit, estimates that the Orange Route will have 45,000 riders annually, whereas the 4U route that goes all the way to Clemson serves 150,000 riders a year.
"We understand that because the bus route is stopping at Tri-County Tech, that might affect our ridership," Scott told the city council.
City council member Steve Kirven reiterated that county officials asked Anderson leaders to partner in the route.
"We have no compelling reason to do this," Kirven said. "But number one, we were asked. And number two, it will hopefully help some of our citizens."
Interim county administrator Rusty Burns said he will present the agreement to county council members one more time this week. If county officials want to make any further changes to the agreement, they will discuss them at a budget workshop Wednesday, Burns said.
The approved agreement includes several amendments proposed by county council member Cindy Wilson. 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. If the county's share of route costs increases beyond the projections, that could trigger automatic fare increases.
"We don't have any problems with the changes suggested," said city manager John Moore. "I trust our people to know how to run a bus route and to know how much it's going to cost."
County council Chairman Tommy Dunn said Monday night he was relieved that the agreement has gotten two sets of approvals.
"This is for the betterment of the people of Anderson County," Dunn said. "Hopefully, now we can move on with the next leg of this and try to get the bus service on to Clemson. I'm very appreciative of the city's cooperation with us."
In other business Monday, city officials gave preliminary approval to Anderson's 2014-15 budget, which includes proposed increases in monthly sewer rates. Customers who live in the city could pay an extra $4.58 per month, while those outside the city limits would pay an average of $9.16 per month.
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