Dial-a-ride aims for Aug. start

The wait for Rock Hill's public transit service will stretch into August, more than four months behind the original schedule, officials said Monday.

The city and York County struck a deal in early June to launch the system, which is aimed at helping elderly people without access to cars. Four weeks later, organizers are still mapping out how it will work -- and haven't yet identified a start date.

"You can't just start driving," said Wendy Duda, director of the York County Council on Aging. "Let's face it, a lot of people have to agree to a lot of things. When the city finally decided they wanted to do it, they had to figure out a way to go along with the county. Then, they had to get approval from the state and the feds. There's a lot of people involved."

Duda added of her agency, which will manage the service: "We're probably the quickest part of the process."

Supporters originally hoped the vans would roll in April. But a contract agreement needed between the city and York County hit a series of snags and ignited back-and-forth sniping that persisted through spring. The animosity has since subsided, but the bureaucratic process continues to inch along.

Organizers now expect to launch the vans around the third or fourth week of August. Soon after, they'll unveil an official logo and begin advertising the program under its official name -- York County Access.

Seniors such as Kay Beach, 69, of Rock Hill say they'll keep waiting for the promise to materialize.

Beach recently paid $40 in round-trip cab fare to get a new license at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The retired academic researcher suffers from a variety of eye problems and has never driven a car, although she needs the license for identification. That's why she needed help getting from her townhouse near Manchester Village to the DMV across town on Heckle Boulevard.

"I'm not at the poverty level, but I don't want to spend $100 a month just to get to appointments," Beach said. "I think there are more people than others might realize who financially can't afford it."

The vans will run for a few weeks before an official kickoff event is held in September, Duda said.

Under the program, passengers can call two days in advance to reserve rides anywhere in the city or county for one-way fares of $2.50. It's open to anyone, but seniors are viewed as the target audience because they often don't drive or can't afford cars.

Since April 2006, the service has been available only to residents living in the rural parts of the county because City Hall hadn't paid to become part of it.

Contact the York County Council on Aging at 324-5084. When the recording begins, press option 2.