Originally created 08/15/97

Counties to have idea of bus service plan by mid-September



AIKEN - By mid-September, Aiken, Barnwell and Edgefield counties expect to have a blueprint on how to coordinate bus service for area residents.

That's when the hard work probably begins.

"It's not an easy issue to grapple with," said Rod Wilburn, owner of the Atlanta-based Day Wilburn Associates. He was speaking of the draft report for the Coordinated Transportation Services Plan which will recommend steps to link existing bus services in the three counties.

The issue of finding a way to also link the Best Friend Express, operated by the Council on Aging in Aiken County, with bus service in Augusta also is a long-range goal.

On Thursday, representatives from three Councils on Aging, the state Department of Transportation, and the Aiken County Transit Commission met to discuss the preliminary recommendations from Mr. Wilburn's engineering and planning company.

Mr. Wilburn said there was about 80 to 90 percent agreement now on the plan, and a final report that should satisfy everyone can be ready by mid-September.

"Then the Lower Savannah Council on Government is at a point to begin working with the three councils and other agencies to set the mechanism up for the plan," he said.

Lower Savannah is the recommended organization to function as review and advisory board for the agencies overall, Mr. Wilburn said.

Each Council on Aging now operates bus services within its county limits.

Many details still will have to be worked out on day-to-day operations of the bus services and how they will mesh, he said.

The study grew out of a 1994 South Carolina transportation coordination law that requires agencies who receive state funding to work together to develop regional transportation plans.

The Aiken Council on Aging joined with Barnwell County's Generations Unlimited and the Edgefield County Senior Citizens Center to develop the plan.