ROCK HILL, S.C. — A day after throwing a pep rally to celebrate a new partnership with the Carolina Panthers, the city of Rock Hill launched its first public bus system with just one route. Now, there are four routes.
For years, city leaders said they have heard that there's a real need for transportation.
The buses have four routes, are all zero-pollution electric buses with free Wi-Fi and books for the kids on board, and there's no fare box.
Each of the seven buses has a sign on the side that reads, "Hop on. It's free!"
Mayor John Gettys said he considers the buses an economic development project.
He said the My Ride system is about reaching people who need it most, so routes focus on low-income communities.
"These routes run through our poorest neighborhoods, places where there's the lowest likelihood that people have vehicles," Gettys said. "It's never too early to end poverty. It's never too early to start getting to people who are living today in conditions that we can overcome."
The federal government paid most of the $6.6 million startup cost, including the cost of the buses, and for the first five years, the government will pay half of the operating costs.
Locally, several major players also put up big money to help keep the buses rolling over the first five years -- $1.75 million came from the city's general fund, $1 million came from Winthrop University and $500,000 each came from Piedmont Medical Center and Family Trust Federal Credit Union.
Winthrop invested heavily because about one-third of its incoming students don't have cars and the university sees public transportation as a recruiting tool.
Some who came to watch the unveiling of the news buses told Channel 9 this will make life better for a lot of people.
"Elderly people, they have doctor appointments. Now they're able to go to their doctor's appointments and get other places they need to go," said Alicia Sutton.
Sarah Crank said that as a retiree, she doesn't want to drive anymore, and this is a safe and free way to get around.
"This is so needed, and, like I said, I'm excited because I'm definitely gonna use it," she said.
The first route, which follows a loop through downtown on Oakland Avenue to Winthrop University, launches Monday.
One goes out on Heckle Boulevard and another goes down Dave Lyle Boulevard past Manchester Village toward the mall.
A fourth route goes on Cherry Road to River Walk at Celanese Road.
The city said it is working on an app that will eventually make tracking the routes easy and more accessible.
Find maps of all the routes and bus schedules here.
© 2020 Cox Media Group