LARS off to good start as county’s 1st transit system

The Lancaster Area Ride Service is now serving as the county’s first public transit system after recent expansion and Council on Aging Director Sally Sherrin is reporting good results.  “The scope of the service is broader,” Sherrin said.  She spoke during last week’s County Council meeting and told the group that trips and riders have increased recently to the tune of a 57 percent hike from year one to the present.  LARS began in 2009 to serve residents of the county with transportation to and from medical appointments.  The expansion allows the service to be offered to all residents for not just medical transportation but also general transportation for shopping and other trips.  LARS was previously funded through grants from the J. Marion Sims Foundation. The organization agreed to support the service as long as it was for medical transportation only since the bylaws would not allow support of a public transit system.  LARS is now funded by the South Carolina Department of Transportation and Lancaster County. Earlier this year, the county agreed to provide $35,000 in investments.  “Right now, you are providing 44 cents per passenger that rides so we appreciate the support of county council,” Sherrin said.  LARS recently polled users about their satisfaction with the system.  Sherrin said the results were very  encouraging.  They were asked about the cost of rides, condition of the vehicles, driver courtesy, driver skill, and other areas.  According to Sherrin, users rated all areas at “very good.”  LARS is available for anyone 18 years of age or older. Trips cost $2 each way within Lancaster County. Going outside of the county to Rock Hill costs $5 while trips to Charlotte and Columbia are a charge of $10 each way.  Drivers are trained in defensive driving techniques and are certified to perform CPR and First Aid. Car seats and booster seats are also available and can be provided by notifying LARS prior to being picked up.  Riders are encouraged to limit the amount of items they bring with them on a ride.  Drivers ask riders to place their items at their feet and cannot take up a seat in the vehicle.  LARS can be contacted by calling 803-285-6956.  Riders are asked to be ready 30 minutes before they are scheduled for pickup. The service runs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.  Sherrin told council there isn’t any limitation on where riders can request they be taken.  “We’re able to take people pretty much wherever they need to go,” she said.  Lancaster County Council Chairwoman Kathy Sistare said LARS will be an asset to the county and expressed her interest in seeing how much the service is able to grow through the expansion.  “This is going to be exciting to see where this goes,” she said.

By Joseph Garris Jr, Staff Reporter with The News-Era