Technological upgrades will be made with grant

With five buses and three routes to maintain, the Best Friend Express is happy to make use of a $680,000 federal grant to enhance its services.


The Lower Savannah Council of Government, which operates the Aiken County transit program, received one of three federal grants awarded nationwide.

Lynnda Bassham of the council said the money will go toward advanced technology initiatives.

That technology will include automatic vehicle location, communications systems, geographic information systems, integrated vehicle dispatching and scheduling, electronic payments, financial tracking and billing systems, and advanced traveler information systems that will allow quick schedule revisions to accommodate riders' needs.

"If someone is at Reid's Supermarket and they're wondering if they missed the bus they can call and we'll be able to pinpoint exactly where the vehicle is," Ms. Bassham said.

The Best Friend Express has three county routes that run every two hours. One goes to Augusta.

The grant was awarded through Mobility Services for All Americans, a U.S. Department of Transportation research initiative.

The Lower Savannah Council of Government was one of 37 applicants.

In January 2007, the field was whittled down to eight agencies for the first phase of the initiative. Phase 1 dictated that each agency submit a system plan and design that included seven parts.

Three agencies were chosen to implement designs.

The other two grants went to Paducah, Ky., and Camden County, N.J., which have similar programs.

Ms. Bassham said it will take about a year for the system to go online.

"It's going to be really great," she said.

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or