NEW ELLENTON - Bus service is on its way to New Ellenton for the first time.
With a federal transportation grant, the Council on Aging for Aiken County begins regular bus service between New Ellenton and Aiken on Monday. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at noon in front of New Ellenton's town hall.
The 16-passenger, handicapped-accessible bus will shuttle people from three locations in New Ellenton to Aiken Mall for a connection with the Best Friend Express. Or passengers may stay on board for a drop-off stop in downtown Aiken as the bus heads toward its turnaround destination at the Council on Aging office on Morgan Street.
A scheduled stop at the intersection of Dry Branch and Whiskey roads is also planned.
"We hope this is going to be a really exciting new service for New Ellenton," said George Alexander, interim director for the Council on Aging. "It's something they've wanted for a long time and is desperately needed."
Public Works Commissioner Gene Crawford said he began exploring possibilities of getting money for the bus service through the Augusta Regional Transportation System about two years ago. He heard stories from people in the Dry Branch and Greendale areas of town who said they were paying $10 to $15 to get rides to Aiken.
"I saw a need for it. I think it's a great deal," Mr. Crawford said. "Something good needs to be happening."
Aiken County Councilwoman Susan Giddings, who represents the New Ellenton area, said she has heard from senior citizens and others who believe there is a need for local bus service.
There are also tentative plans to begin limited bus service out of Jackson as early as Aug. 21, she said.
Round trip fare from New Ellenton to Aiken costs $3. Senior citizens and handicapped persons may ride for half fare, and children under 6 ride free, Mr. Alexander said.
Departure and arrival times are still being worked out, Mr. Alexander said. But most likely, the bus will leave two or three times from New Ellenton and Aiken on a morning and afternoon schedule, he said.
Departure points in New Ellenton are the Public Works Commission, town hall and Todd's Shop & Go, all on Main Street.
But Mr. Alexander said, "If someone sees the bus and wants a ride, they might try to wave it over."