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Transportation: Forum promotes bus service in Pawleys Island area

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Making public transportation more accessible on the Waccamaw Neck will be the focus of a public meeting in the Pawleys Island area Thursday.

The meeting, at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at Precious Blood of Christ Catholic Church, is hosted by the church and the transportation committee of Georgetown County League of Women Voters. By its end, hopes are that they’ll have a better understanding of what the area’s transportation needs are and what it would take for Coast Regional Transportation Authority to meet them.

“Services are sorely needed to get people to work, to school, to doctor’s appointments... There are lots of older people in this area who could gain more independence through these services,” said Linda Cimadon, a member of the church and the league. “We think the need is there, but we really need to just formalize it at this point. We want to get more input from the public.”

Needs surveys have been created and have already been handed out to some residents through area churches. The surveys, and a petition to increase bus service, will also be available at the meeting and will help determine whether it makes sense for Coast to improve existing limited service on the Waccamaw Neck by adding a connector to the interior of the Pawleys Island and Litchfield communities. The plan under consideration would create a bus stop at Precious Blood and possibly at other willing churches and venues.

“Service is already available up and down Highway 17. We want to give people a place to possibly park and ride and to get on and off the bus in a safer environment. Right now, they’re having to flag it down on 17,” said Suzanne Harris, co-chair of Precious Blood’s outreach ministry and membership chair for the league.

And for a lot of residents, they’re far enough away from the highway that they really need a car to reach the bus, added Cimadon.

Through the meeting, the church is hoping it can locate more places in the area that would be willing to allow bus shelters to be set up on their property. It has proven difficult in the past for Coast to obtain easements for shelters.

“If we speak up and say we’re willing to consider the options, perhaps other places in the community will be willing to consider them, too,” Harris said.

But Coast and public officials who have been invited to the meeting also need to hear from people who would utilize the connector service if it were made available.

“It’s not cost efficient if nobody is going to ride,” Harris added. Coast needs to know the project is worth the effort to seek out funds and elected officials need to see the benefit in doling out funds in a time when budgets are tight.

People who would start using the service immediately are encouraged to attend the meeting, but also people who have friends or relatives who would benefit from the service, and those who might benefit from it in the future, perhaps if age takes away their ability to drive or if circumstances determine they need a less expensive way to travel.

“It’s a great cause and I think it’s really a necessity,” Cimadon said. “Right now, we’re a pass-through, but there are only a few stops. What’s fascinating to me is we’re always so focused on highways. I hate to say it, but we’ve really missed the boat on mass transit here.”

Byproducts of increasing bus service, such as reducing the number of cars on roadways and needing to build and expand fewer highways in the future should also be considered in this endeavor, according to Harris.

“I hope people will embrace this not just today, not just right now in 2012, but look forward and see what’s possible,” she said.

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