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Sun City woman plans to plead for charter bus service

The Lowcountry Regional Transportation Authority is required to seek public comment on its budget and its use of one-time federal money to buy new buses.

Sun City Hilton Head resident Bess Anderson thinks that's the perfect opportunity to push for a charter service in her community.

A bimonthly bus trip would allow elderly residents who can't or don't drive to go to the grocery store or to such events as Senior Savings Day at Belk, Anderson said.

But transportation officials say they've tried a Sun City charter bus before, and there weren't enough riders to justify the cost.

The S.C. Department of Transportation is accepting public comments until today on the use of Federal Transit Administration money. The Lowcountry Regional Transportation Authority -- which does business as Palmetto Breeze -- got $354,000 of that to buy new vehicles. In addition, Palmetto Breeze is hosting a public hearing Friday on its $2.5 million budget request.

Anderson has been telling neighbors, friends and other potential passengers to get on the DOT website and lobby Palmetto Breeze.

"We need more transportation here because there are seniors, and they need a little help," Anderson said. "Some of them don't even go out unless they get a ride."

But Palmetto Breeze already tried a Sun City shuttle last spring, and it wasn't popular enough to continue the service, said board of directors member Ginnie Kozak, who also is the planning director for the Lowcountry Council of Governments.

Sun City residents have lobbied for service on the assumption ticket sales would cover costs, Kozak said. However, payment on a per-passenger basis didn't even pay for diesel fuel, she said.

Viable routes on the U.S. 278 corridor, which would include Sun City, have been studied for several years. Transportation officials will discuss how to coordinate regional transportation at an invitation-only luncheon Jan. 28, and any new bus lines would have to fit into their comprehensive plan, Kozak said.

But public comments on the transportation authority's budget and plans for new buses are a legal formality required when using federal money, and not the time to plan new routes, she added.

A charter bus isn't off the table, she said, but it hasn't worked before.

Anderson said that with a little more publicity and word of mouth, a shuttle service could become popular in Sun City.

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