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Salisbury Transit offers free rides on orange, red ozone days

Salisbury’s Transit Division will offer free city bus rides on orange and red ozone action days in June and July.
Funding is provided through a partnership with the N.C. Department of Transportation, which awards Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Project grants to help ease traffic congestion, improve air quality, market transit systems and improve customer service, the city said in a press release.
“We are truly grateful for the CMAQ funding support and Salisbury is proud to do our part in improving the air quality at the local level,” Salisbury Transit Division Manager Rodney Harrison said in a press release. “The free ride program provides the opportunity to highlight the value of our bus service and allow first-time riders the opportunity to experience the transit system at no charge.”
The Salisbury Transit system runs to shopping locations including the Salisbury Mall, Wal-Mart and the Ketner Center; educational centers Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and Livingstone College, with a stop blocks from Catawba College; services such as the Employment Security Commission, the U.S. Post Office, Social Services and the Health Department; and hospitals Rowan Regional Medical Center and the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center.
The bus system runs through downtown Salisbury and into Spencer and East Spencer.
The current rate for bus riders is $1 for regular fares, with senior citizens and handicapped riders paying 50 cents. Transfers and children younger than 5 are free. Riders may board and disembark from any designated bus stop throughout the city or at the transfer site on Depot Street, next to the Amtrak train station.
City buses arrive and depart from the transfer site daily at 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after the hour. Bus service is available Monday through Friday from 6:15 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. and on Saturday from 8:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. City buses don’t run on Sunday.
By 5 p.m. each day, Salisbury Transit receives the local air quality and ozone level report forecast for the following day. If the local forecast predicts an orange or red ozone warning for that day, the free ride program will be in effect.
Interested citizens may call the city’s transit hotline at 704-216-7537 after 7 p.m. each day to hear an updated ozone status report for the next day. Government Access Channel 16 and the city’s Web site, www.salisburync.gov, will also offer daily status reports. Salisbury will keep the marketing campaign the city created last year to raise awareness about the program. The slogan, “Help clear the air… with FREE Bus Fare!” also alludes to the fact that ozone is the main ingredient of urban smog and can be hazardous to a person’s health ó especially young children, the elderly and those with asthma or other breathing problems.
Ozone can be formed at ground level by automobile and household product emissions. Ground-level ozone is more likely to exceed safe standards on days when the temperature is 90 degrees or higher.
Using the city transit system can not only contribute to cleaner air, but save money. In early 2007, the American Public Transportation Association estimated that public transportation saves 1.4 billions gallons of gasoline each year and can reduce household expenses by $6,200 ó and gas was cheaper then.
Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz called public transit “a vital service” and key in allowing citizens to participate fully in the community. And the free ride program takes that service a step farther.
“The ‘FREE Bus Fare’ program is a wonderful way to cut down on air pollution by making a simple change in our daily lives,” Kluttz said. “Our city strives to be a good steward of the environment and the utilization of our public transit system to reduce emissions is an essential means to improving air quality in Salisbury.”
For more information about the city’s free bus ride program, call Harrison at 704-638-5253.

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