Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post
Starting this fall, the county will take a leap into mass transit by offering morning and evening “bus” service from Salisbury to Kannapolis.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved plans by the Rowan Transit System to offer Rowan Express.
The service is tentatively expected to be up and running by October or November.
A three-year demonstration project, federal funds will pay the majority of the costs. The cities of Salisbury, Kannapolis and China Grove have committed to share in providing the remaining $30,000 in annual matching costs.
Clyde Fahnestock, the county’s senior services director, said Rowan Express will be geared toward getting people to work and offering a “very affordable rate.”
Current plans call for Rowan Express to start with two round trips originating in Salisbury and two from Kannapolis, starting at 6 a.m. The schedule will be repeated in the evening, ending around 6 p.m.
Rowan Transit will use existing 12-passenger vans to start, but Fahnestock said the hope is that demand will add more trips daily.
And if the service grows as expected, Rowan Transit will be ready to add mini-buses and full-size buses.
“Considering the price of gas is supposed to be $4 a gallon by this summer, we think this will really take off,” said Fahnestock. “This is a park and ride to work.
“The whole purpose is to get people out of their individual cars, get people to use to mass transit. It has to happen รณ that’s the future.”
Fahnestock sees a major value to southern Rowan residents who need to come to Salisbury for such business as visiting county offices, keeping doctor’s appointments, or shopping.
Fahnestock is asking potential riders to be a part of the process of setting up the system.
“We need to hear from people who want to have access,” he said.
He asks anyone who wants to have input or attend the committee meetings to call him at 704-216-7708.
Fahnestock said the overall goal is to “provide seamless transportation for the public.”
Rowan Express will connect with the Salisbury transit system and the Kannapolis Rider system.
Through the Kannapolis and Concord systems’ connections with Charlotte’s CATS, Rowan residents can even ride to Charlotte.
Fahnestock said rates haven’t been set. The committee will play a major role in setting the rates.
While Rowan Transit will manage the new service, the federal money flows through the city of Concord and the Cabarrus-Rowan Metropolitan Planning Organization. The money has already been approved and is available.
Salisbury, China Grove and Kannapolis have agreed to participate. Last year, Landis voted to not participate, but officials hope the town’s leaders will reconsider.
Commissioner Jim Sides readily accepted blame for delaying county approval. He noted that when it was on the agenda last September, he had some questions and concerns.
“Those issues have been resolved,” Sides said. He added that he failed to get the issue back on the agenda. The board unanimously approved Sides’ motion to go forward with the project.
In another matter related to Rowan Transit Service, the board delayed considering a 10-year lease for property on Industrial Avenue owned by Hedrick Industries.
Commissioners apparently wanted more time to consider other alternatives. The system has operated at the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s bus garage on Old Concord Road.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or jburchette@salisburypost.com.

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