ROCKINGHAM — For $4, you can get from Hamlet to Rockingham on the Area Richmond Transit bus. If you are over 60 and/or disabled that price can drop to only $1 each way.
Tuesday evening, Neel Peacock, transportation director for ART, spoke to the Rockingham City Council during its regularly scheduled meeting.
“We transported 39-40,000 people in Richmond County in 2019 covering approximately 260,000 miles,” Peacock said.
ART also provides transportation outside the county for medical visits. For trips to the doctor in Southern Pines, Fayetteville, Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Charlotte, if a request is made by noon one day prior to the appointment, a Richmond County resident can get transportation for only $25.
That price drops to only $5 for qualified residents over 60 or disabled individuals through the Elderly, Disabled Transportation Assistance Program. Peacock encourages those with special needs to come to the office and sign up for this program.
“No pre-qualification is needed to ride the transit within the county other than being a resident of Richmond County,” said Peacock. “We take people to work, to go shopping, to go see grandma or even to see a friend and play Bingo.”
The ART program is funded through a grant from the N.C. Department of Transportation. Federal grant money from the 5311 program for rural transportation assistance pays the administrative costs as well as providing funding for vehicle purchases.
According to Peacock, the local fleet is currently undergoing a fuel conversion.
“Converting our fleet to propane will help us to lower the cost of operation,” said Peacock. “We are currently paying $2.04 at the pump for gasoline. For propane, after incentives, we are paying about $1 per gallon.”
This conversion will also help with making fuel more readily available during times of natural disasters like hurricanes, according to Peacock. He indicated that during Hurricane Florence, ART provided evacuation services within the county to local shelters. This allowed local law enforcement and rescue personnel to focus on other needs during that critical time.
“We are an on demand service,” Peacock said, meaning, much like a taxi service, clients are picked up at their doorstep and dropped off at the doorstep of their destination. The main difference being you may share your ride with four to five others, depending on demand.