Rowan Express will hit the road April 6

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Rowan Express, a low-cost public transportation system linking Salisbury, China Grove, Landis and Kannapolis, will hit the road April 6.
The service is a partnership between the four municipalities and Rowan County. Funded by a three-year federal grant, the bus service will help link employment centers, shopping, colleges, county services and medical facilities.
The fare will be $1, with no charge for children under 5 years of age. Transfers to the Kannapolis-Concord Rider System and the Salisbury Transit system are free.
For example, a rider from southern Rowan would pay $1 to ride to Salisbury and transfer to the Salisbury system, and $1 for the return trip.
The service will run mornings between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and afternoons between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Stops will be at the Kannapolis Train Station, Landis Town Hall, the Food Lion on South Main Street in China Grove, the China Grove Police Department and Depot Street in Salisbury.
The service was scheduled to start last fall, but federal and state red tape delayed the launch.
The next target date was April 1, but organizers opted out of that date, not wanting to start on April Fool’s Day.
“By connecting our communities to two other established public transit systems, we are making strides to improve air quality in our region by reducing the number of cars on our roadways,” Clyde Fahnestock, director of Rowan County’s Senior Services, told commissioners Monday night. Fahnestock, whose department currently manages the RITA transit system, will oversee Rowan Express. In both cases, the actual operation is handled by a private contractor.
Fahnestock said the schedule of arrivals in Salisbury meshes well with the Salisbury Transit system. Passengers arriving on Rowan Express will be able to transfer to any of the Salisbury routes.
Likewise, passengers going south will be able to access the Kannapolis-Concord system, which travels to various destinations including Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast and Concord Mills.
Fahnestock emphasized the connection to the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis and the potential jobs that will be available to area residents.
Using federal funds through the N.C. Department of Transportation, the county transit system has purchased three buses ó called light-transit vehicles ó that have a capacity of 14 passengers with one wheelchair passenger or 12 passengers and two wheelchair passengers.
The buses have double doors at the rear with a chair lift.
Responding to a question from commissioners Chairman Carl Ford, Fahnestock said each stop has shelter available, so riders won’t be waiting in the street without cover.
He noted the manager at Food Lion in China Grove is very enthusiastic about having a stop there and has agreed to let passengers wait inside the store on days when the weather is bad.
And Fahnestock noted there is no cost to the county.
The N.C. Department of Transportation is providing $150,000 each year, with the four municipalities contributing $7,500 each annually.
Commissioner Raymond Coltrain praised the previous board of commissioners for approving the service.
For more information call 704-216-8888.