With the possibility of the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) reducing its daily bus rides to two morning trips and two evening trips to Surry County, Commissioner Paul Johnson is hoping that PART’s service will continue as it is now, but he is unsure if the county will help fund the program.
PART announced earlier this month that it may cut the number of hours the service runs to Surry County from 19 hours a day to five.
Right now, PART buses pick up and drop off passengers nearly 20 times a day from its lot beside of Big Lots.
On May 9 at 8:30 a.m., the PART Board of Trustees will hold a public hearing for testimonies from riders who will be affected by the reduction. When that board’s fiscal year starts on July 1, that’s when any decisions about routes made at that hearing will begin. The hearing will be at the PART office, at 7800 Airport Center Drive, Greensboro.
Commissioner Paul Johnson said he plans to arrange a meeting with PART’s Executive Director Brent McKinney and the other commissioners before the hearing next month.
“I’m going to explain the pros and cons and then let the other commissioners decide if they want to help fund it,” said Johnson.
He said he is sure that PART will ask for money from the county, but at this time, Johnson said he is unsure if the commissioners will decide to help fund the program as budget negotiations are just beginning.
Johnson said Surry County has the largest ridership that PART has in rural areas.
“I hope we can work something out,” said Johnson. “Surry County will be hit the hardest.”
PART Planning Program Manager Mark Kirstner explained that the reduced amount of hours are being based on the projected revenue from each of the counties PART serves. The revenue from Surry is $115,850, which is equal to 3.6 hours of bus transportation. However, Kirstner said that more hours were needed to accommodate the drives to and from each of the county’s corridors, which is why PART will add an extra 1.4 hours to total five hours of service.
PART was able to add those hours due to extra revenue it gets from running the buses in Forsyth and Guilford counties and from a percentage of those counties’ vehicle rentals.
For fiscal year 2012, PART’s revenue in Surry came from a percentage vehicle rental fees and Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) money from the state. The JARC funds helped low-income individuals have access to employment. However, the state no longer offers JARC funds to PART.
Commissioner Buck Golding said he hasn’t decided whether or not he will be attending the PART hearing.
He said he’s sure PART will ask for money from the county commissioners at that hearing.
While Golding thinks the concept of PART is a good one, he doesn’t believe that Surry County should have to partially fund it.
“I think it should stand on its on instead of starting out and then having to cut back or be subsidized,” said Golding.
Reach Mondee Tilley at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1930.