Washington Housing Authority promotes city bus service

Published 5:35 am Monday, January 29, 2007

By Staff
One resident rides to and from BCCC; another likes inexpensive fare
By MIKE VOSS, Contributing Editor
As Washington’s bus service seeks to increase its ridership, which remains at a low level, it’s getting help from the Washington Housing Authority.
The WHA is promoting the bus service, which began Nov. 20. Last week, five WHA officials rode the bus as part of an effort to evaluate the service. The bus stops at five WHA properties during its route. The WHA officials were Claud Hodges, Frances Lodge, Deborah Rodgers, Susan Whitley and Johnny Gibbs.
In addition to stopping near the WHA offices on Pennsylvania Avenue, the bus stops at four other WHA properties — Westbrook, East Haven, Old Fort and Oakcrest. During their evaluation trip, the WHA officials decided to recommend the Old Fort stop be moved from the southeast corner of West Ninth and Respess streets to the WHA’s Section 8 office on West Ninth Street, about a half a block west of the existing bus stop.
To promote the bus service, which the WHA officials said is something many WHA clients can use, the WHA is doing several things with its clients and at its properties.
Information about the bus service is included in the WHA’s quarterly newsletter, which is distributed to clients. The WHA has held three meetings with its residents to discuss the bus service with them.
The bus service provides some WHA clients with an inexpensive transportation option, the officials said.
The WHA officials are convinced more of their clients would use the bus service if it was more convenient, especially if the bus began its route earlier in the morning. If the bus ran earlier in the morning, some WHA clients would ride it to work, the officials said.
Hodges said he and his WHA colleagues are aware the bus service will continue to be tweaked during its 90-day trial period.
The bus service is beginning to attract some regular and not-so-regular riders.
Carol Parker rides the bus from its stop near Bayleaf Plantation to Beaufort County Community College four days a week. Parker is studying early childhood education. She did not learn about the bus service until after it started.
On days when she doesn’t get out of class until after the bus stops running, Parker finds another form of transportation to take her home. She also takes the bus to the Village Apartments complex, then walks to the nearby Food Lion to pick up groceries. She’s also taken the bus to Wal-Mart.
For Chris Everson, taking the bus is a matter of economics. Everson lives across the highway from the community college. He likes the price of a one-way trip.
Everson said he rides the bus at least once a week, either going to Wal-Mart or other places in Washington.
Earlier this month, the bus service, provided by Beaufort Area Transit System, modified the bus service. Chris Kiricoples, chief executive officer of the Beaufort County Developmental Center, and Mayor Judy Meier Jennette have said the bus service will make modifications as needed to better service its patrons and attract new riders. BCDC oversees BATS operations.
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, Wal-Mart and the Mid-East Commission have agreed to provide $1,000 each to operate the system. Agape Health Clinic is providing $250.
Last month, Kiricoples said the project’s goal is to have the service 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 he’s confident that will happen.
So far, ridership is not at the needed level. The city, BCDC and WHA hope to change that.