Columbia, S.C.’s The COMET recently had a ribbon cutting to commemorate the arrival of 31 new vehicles. The COMET has a total of 50 fixed-route vehicles and all but eight will have been replaced within the last three years. During the spring and early summer months, the agency also received eight new propane-powered small vehicles and 15 35-foot New Flyer buses. Within the last month, eight additional 40-foot New Flyer buses have also arrived on the property.
By the end of October, the Bluebird buses purchased for the fledgling regional transit authority back in 2002 will all have been replaced. The COMET also replaced the entire DART (ADA paratransit) fleet with 21 new vehicles back in 2016.
“This is a milestone for The COMET because we are fulfilling the promises made to the Citizens when the Richland County Penny Transportation Sales Tax was passed,” says Ann August, The COMET’s interim executive director. “I am extremely excited about the upgraded technologies on the new vehicles, and cannot wait to get the old ones off the streets. These new buses will be a breath of fresh air, with its new color scheme as they provide a sense of pride within the communities we serve. We want everyone to know that Public Transit Matters.”
The celebration was possible because of the funding provided by the Richland County Transportation Penny Sales Tax that was voted on by the residents of Richland County back in 2012. The COMET receives one-third of the penny that allots $390 million, or 22 years, whichever comes first. If it was not for the penny, the agency would be cutting routes not ribbons.
The funding allowed The COMET to leverage the federal funds available to them to purchase the new buses. The new buses now provide Wi-Fi, cell phone chargers, the ability to pay fares with their phones, and much more. The ability to have their needs met as well as enjoy the extra benefits provided on the bus is a real plus to the passengers.
The COMET is celebrating the 125th Anniversary of transit services in the Midlands. Last month, the agency was presented with the “Spare the Air Award” by the Department of Health and Environmental Control.
“This is a special year, as we are celebrating the past; all while increasing the growth of transit in the Midlands,” August added. “We cannot improve the transit experience without improving the quality of our buses and customer services; that meets the needs of our passengers, all while being friendly to the environment.”