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Rock Hill may alter daily bus route to Charlotte to boost ridership

Hoping to boost low ridership, Rock Hill will consider a new route for a commuter bus line that connects to light rail in Charlotte.

The 78X Celanese Express would travel on U.S. 21 and add two stops in Fort Mill under a proposal to go before the City Council on Monday.

The service makes stops only along Celanese Road in north Rock Hill before zipping up Interstate 77 to the Pineville, N.C., light rail station at Interstate 485.

Some City Council members have suggested eliminating the 78X bus route unless ridership improves.

By adding stops in Fort Mill, transit planners hope to gain riders and boost the visibility of the service. Currently, the bus line averages 250 to 300 riders a month.

"The rationale is that more S.C. folks currently using the Pineville station are coming from the areas along U.S. 21," said Bill Meyer, Rock Hill's planning and development director.

The bus would make a final evening departure time at 6 p.m., allowing extra time for workers unable to catch the current last route, which leaves the light rail station at 5:30 p.m.

Rock Hill would eliminate two stops on Celanese Road but keep a more popular stop - a park-and-ride lot at the Home Depot shopping center.

The bus would stop in Fort Mill at the Bi-Lo on S.C. 160 and Bloom on Regent Parkway.

There's another benefit for Rock Hill: By expanding the service to Fort Mill and northern York County, those two jurisdictions would take on equal shares of the $27,000 annual price tag, city officials said.

"Our staff has worked with our other partners to provide what we hope to result in additional options at a lower cost," Rock Hill city manager David Vehaun said.

Rock Hill's other CATS bus route has proven more popular.

Now in its ninth year, the 82X carries 3,000 people a month with stops in Rock Hill, Fort Mill and Carowinds en route to downtown Charlotte.

Transit officials plan to continue the 82X service with no changes as a joint effort among Rock Hill, CATS and state and federal sources.