The Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (The COMET) and the University of South Carolina (UofSC) announced a new contract that will better serve the students of the university and unify and strengthen the transportation system in Columbia.
The annual contract for $1.5 million is consistent with what UofSC spends currently to operate its system.
Transit amenities, including bus stops and shelters, as well as buses will be maintained and sheltered by The COMET as part of the contract giving the university access to bus system management and expertise while optimizing resources.
In addition to the $1.5 million The COMET will receive from the contract, it is estimated that close to a million passenger trips will be added to The COMET transit system and the Columbia Urbanized Area, as well as an additional 250,000 revenue vehicle miles. That could translate to an estimated increase of $500,000 in federal funding annually to The COMET.
The COMET will be using 12 buses for the Carolina Shuttle. Through this contract, five to eight buses will be used buses from the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas with The COMET providing the remaining buses from existing 2010 25-foot fleet of The COMET buses. The university will pay 100% of the cost to procure and refurbish the existing buses. By the Spring of 2021, there will be 12 new buses that will replace the used buses. The university will pay 15% of the local match associated with the purchase of new buses with the other 85% of the money coming from a Federal Transit Administration grant that supports the Columbia Urbanized Area.
The additional buses will reduce the variable costs for the entire The COMET transit system and will help build even larger economies of scale for operating and maintaining a fleet. The contract will also increase safety for UofSC students. The buses will have up to nine cameras within the vehicles.
This will also provide better transportation access for UofSC students, employees, and contract workers that use The COMET system. The access to federal and other capital renewal programs and/or capital technology will prove invaluable as transportation continues to grow in the Midlands.
UofSC students and faculty will be able to ride the Carolina Shuttle for free. The general public will also be able to ride Carolina Shuttle at the same fare as it costs to access The COMET service.
This is not the first time The COMET and the University of South Carolina have teamed up to tackle transportation in the Midlands and will be one of several partnerships The COMET has with organizations across the Midlands. By unifying the transportation system in Columbia, the partnership will provide greater access for community members to learn, work, and travel in Columbia.