Use it or lose it

Published 1:19 am Sunday, January 7, 2007

By Staff
It’s good when an agency or a program that serves people listens to the people it serves.
That’s what the Beaufort Area Transit System, a division of the Beaufort County Developmental Center, is doing when it comes to operating Washington’s bus service.
Not too long after it began the city’s bus service with one bus and one route on Nov. 20, 2006, BCDC and BATS officials realized the bus service needed to be tweaked. Some riders had complained the original route and schedule did not serve them well because the bus did not make frequent stops and that some high-density residential areas were not served by the bus service.
Chris Kiricoples, chief executive officer of BCDC, and others decided the best thing to do was to ask riders and potential riders for their input to make the bus service more user-friendly. In December, BATS distributed fliers to the public, seeking suggestions on how to improve the bus service.
The modifications, which took effect Jan. 2, are the direct result of that input, Kiricoples said recently.
But the bus service’s efforts to improve itself didn’t end there. After running into a problem with locating a bus stop at Pamlico Plaza, home to Washington’s Wal-Mart, BCDC, BATS and city officials worked to solve that problem.
Just before the bus service began in November, the company that manages the property where Wal-Mart and neighboring businesses are located said it would not permit, for the time being, a bus stop on that property.
A bus stop at or near Wal-Mart made sense to bus-service patrons and others. After several attempts by local Wal-Mart representatives and Allen Lewis, the city’s public-works director, to convince the company that a bus stop at or near Wal-Mart was needed, the company still would not allow a bus stop on its property.
That’s when Mayor Judy Meier Jennette decided to call the company in her official capacity. Whatever she said to the company’s representative worked. A bus stop at Wal-Mart’s garden center’s door will be added to the bus route as of Monday.
Wal-Mart also joins the list of sponsors for the bus-service, which is operating on a trial basis for 90-days. The Washington City Council appropriated up to $2,750 to help fund the system during the trial period. Beaufort County Hospital, Beaufort County Community College Foundation, Washington Housing Authority and the Mid-East Commission have agreed to provide $1,000 each to operate the system. Agape Health Clinic is providing $250.
By listening to the people it serves, the bus service shows it is working to meet their needs as best possible with the resources it has. By working to add that Wal-Mart bus stop to the route, those who operate the bus service show they are willing to do what it takes to provide the service its patrons deserve.
Riders and potential riders of the bus service should listen to those providing the service.
In November, Kiricoples said the bus service’s goal is to become self-sustaining. To do that, he said, 30 to 32 passengers will have to ride the bus during each circuit of the route. Kiricoples said then he’s confident that will happen.
Kiricoples, Jennette and others have done their part to get the bus service up and running. Riders and potential riders must do their part to keep the bus rolling.
In other words, use it or lose it.