The number of Francis Marion University students utilizing the public transportation bus route that stops on campus is steadily in-creasing, according to officials at the Pee Dee Regional Transportation Authority (PDRTA).
Don Strickland, the transportation manager at the PDRTA, said that 2,072 passengers have used the buses from FMU starting from the end of August to the middle of October.
At press time, they reported a total of 3,257 students who show their FMU ID cards when boarding the buses.
Strickland said that almost 50 percent of the students using the bus from FMU board Route One, which travels to the WalMart on the west side of town, Magnolia Mall and the Florence Mall.
Strickland also said that 30 percent of the students using the buses board Route Four, too. Route Four travels to the WalMart, as well as other stores and restaurants, on the south side of town.
The number of students boarding the buses from off-campus locations has also increased. Strickland said that most of these passengers board from numerous apart-ment complexes around town.
Darryl Bridges, the vice president for public and community affairs at FMU, said the bus system’s “services seem to be meeting a need for our students to not only provide reliable trans-portation to the Performing Arts Center, but also to other points in town via the Florence Transit System.”
Bridges and Strickland both said that they expect an increase in the number of passengers as more students
learn about the system. Strickland also said that they will put programs into place to educate and raise awareness about the bus system.
The PDRTA buses start to pick up students at 7 a.m. They start in the Marion Swamp Fox Education Center, then lead to places such as Leatherman Science Facility, Forest Villas, Ervin Dining Hall, the Grille, Hymen Fine Arts Center, Founders Hall and finally at Patriot Place at 7:32 a.m.
The buses not only benefit FMU students; they also benefit Florence Dar-lington Technical College (FDTC) students. However, FDTC students do not get to ride for free; they pay full price.
A ticket from Marion to Florence costs $4, from local places within Florence it costs $1.50 and to transfer from bus to bus costs 50 cents.
Passengers are asked to arrive at the bus stop five minutes prior to the posted time in case the bus is running ahead of schedule so there will be no hold ups in boarding passengers.
Students should have their ID cards readily available to save time.
Passengers who are 65 and older, have Medicare, qualifying disability, or children from the ages of two to 10 receive half-fare prices.
Details about bus routes, prices and specials are available on PDRTA’s website.