I was visiting my hometown, Bishopville, South Carolina, this summer and noticed a bus stop sign. I thought I must have been seeing things. See my hometown is only 2.4 square miles with a population just under 3500, so clearly there’s no need for a bus system, right?
Actually, there is a growing movement (and funding) for public transportation in rural communities, especially when you consider that more than 1.6 million rural households do not have access to a car. Sixty percent of rural areas now have public transportation service, and demand for more options is growing. According to the American Public Transportation Association, 60% of rural transit riders are going to either work (34%), shopping (17%), or medical appointments (9%). The Rural Transit Assistance Program is one source of funding to assist transit operations in nonurbanized areas. In 2016, the federal government authorized $620 million for rural public transportation capital, operating, and planning expenses.
My hometown’s public transit system celebrates its one year anniversary this month, after launching in September 2015 as a county-wide bus system with a network of 35 bus stops (signs) and 10 bus shelters. Ridership is steadily increasing with nearly 600 trips a month. According to an article in The Item, residents are already asking for the system to be expanded with commuter routes to nearby Sumter and Florence.