BUCKSPORT, SC (WMBF) - New bus routes are giving people specifically in rural areas more job, training and school opportunities.
A state grant is providing the money for the first routes from Bucksport and Loris to Conway and Myrtle Beach. A meeting with local and state leaders was held Tuesday to officially kick off the routes, and encourage the communities to spread the word about them.
South Carolina Sen. Ronnie Sabb, Rep. Carl Anderson and Horry County Councilman Harold Phillips were present and spoke to Bucksport area residents at the meeting.
Sabb said the route expansion is about "jobs, enhancing the quality of life, self-esteem and contributing to the community." He called bringing transportation opportunities to those don't have it 'empowering.'
He also asked the people at the meeting to distribute route maps to their churches, family and friends to spread word that they now exist.
Brian Piascik, Coast RTA general manager, agreed with Sabb. He said the routes from Bucksport and Loris have been going for about a month, and 20 to 30 people on average are riding daily.
He said there needs to be more.
"The overall cost for this is between $180,000 and $200,000 top rated for the next 18 months. Just three trips a day in each direction, so it's two vehicles. So, you know, we need to try to find those dollars somewhere else to keep it going beyond that (time frame)," Piascik said.
The grant, some Coast RTA funding, and money from Loris will only support the routes until February 2019.
Piascik said Coast RTA will work to find more money to keep the routes running. He added several area businesses, specifically Brittain Resorts, had a big hand in creating the routes.
A representative from the resort company spoke at the meeting, saying the hope is the new routes will add to their workforce. They also provide opportunities to adults with disabilities.
The routes are funded by a $100,000 grant from South Carolina's state workforce development board. It was awarded in June after a study into areas with barriers to find job and training opportunities. Florence, Bucksport and Loris received grants, the director of communications for the Department of Employment and Workforce, Bob Bouyea, said.
Bouyea said six areas received a $100,000 grant to provide public transportation to areas without.
The routes run three times a day. Piascik said, right now, he understands people must have a flexible schedule to use them, but he hopes for times and route numbers to increase.
The Loris and Bucksport routes are both 'express routes' to U.S. 501 from Conway to Myrtle Beach. For pick-up times and locations, click here.
Piascik said Coast RTA is working to find ways to expand routes to the North Myrtle Beach, Carolina Forest, Socastee, Georgetown and Andrews areas.