The Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) soon will increase the number of buses it runs to Mount Airy.
Three more buses will become part of Route 6 — the “Surry County Express” — effective Sept. 30.
This means extra departure times from the Mount Airy Park and Ride lot in the Big Lots shopping center, and increased flexibility for local users wishing to access various locations in Winston-Salem.
The upcoming move will partially restore service that had been cut from the Surry County route in July 2012, when the number of buses running locally each morning was trimmed from seven to two.
A decision by the PART leadership to add the three buses came after local residents campaigned to have greater service, making the argument that there was ridership demand for the expansion.
One person who is happy about the addition is Bert Wood, a Mount Airy resident employed in Winston-Salem as the CEO of Partnership for a Drug-Free NC.
“For the past 12 months, we’ve been running two buses,” Wood said Friday of the diminished capacity that has produced some noticeable changes. “I rode one afternoon and there were 12 people standing up and three of those people were children.”
When the PART bus service ran at full capacity, Wood personally used it about 70 percent of the time — which dropped to 40 percent when the cut was made last year.
Wood has viewed it as a way to get to Winston-Salem in a more economical, safe and environmentally friendly manner that using one’s personal vehicle exclusively.
He took part in the campaign to increase the buses, and also addressed the PART governing board last month concerning the issue.
Last year’s decision to cut out the five buses was said to be due to funding considerations, and not low ridership by local residents. More recently, PART officials have been able to juggle some of the federal and state transportation funding the agency receives, which led to the buses being added to the Surry County Express.
“There’s no local dollars with it,” Wood said.
In addition to the Mount Airy/Winston-Salem link, the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation serves Greensboro, High Point and other communities in the region.
New Departure Times
The two buses now servicing Mount Airy leave here at 5:40 and 7 a.m. each day. Under the changes effective on Sept. 30, departure times of 6, 6:30 and 7:40 a.m. will be added.
By the same token, three extra northbound routes back to Mount Airy will run at the end of each day, the last departing from a transportation center in Winston-Salem at 7:40 p.m.
“Surry County will more than double its available commuter transportation,” Wood said.
The bus service allows local residents to reach such locations as Wake Forest Baptist Health, Forsyth Medical Center, Hanes Mall, Stratford Executive Park and others.
“They take you right to the front door at Baptist or Forsyth (hospitals),” Wood said of the convenience of not having to park a vehicle and also pay a fee for that.
Along with families of hospital patients, shoppers also benefit, he said, mentioning that members of the Red Hat ladies group locally have used the PART service to reach Hanes Mall.
Fares cost $3 one way, which is cut to $1.50 for persons 60 or older, those who are disabled, students with identification and Medicare card holders. Passes for 31-day and other ride packages also are available.
A complete updated schedule and other information for the expanded service can be accessed at http://partnc.org/documents.
Wood said the PART service frees up the disposable incomes of riders for other needs, in addition to improving air quality by keeping more passenger cars off the road.
The PART buses run on low-sulphur diesel fuel.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.