More improvements on the way for Midlands transit system - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

More improvements on the way for Midlands transit system

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

The Columbia area mass transit system is in upgrade mode thanks to the stable funding provided by Richland County's penny sales tax.

There have been a lot of service restoration and improvements and more on the way as soon as this weekend.

Customers have been waiting a long time and for them the sooner those changes come, the better.

In Columbia, you would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated fan of the National Hockey League's Philadelphia Flyers than Darrell Eberhardt.

His apartment near Spring Valley High School is crammed with Flyers pucks, sticks and photos.

Following the team gives Eberhardt something to do when he's not working and he's not working very much these days.

He lost his job last year when the then-financially strapped CMRTA bus system had to cut his DART service to West Columbia.

 "At first it was like there's got to be other jobs that I can get then but it's hard to find jobs here in Columbia let alone nationwide," Eberhardt said.

Eberhardt said he was using DART or Dial-A-Ride Transit due to his disability.

A brain injury left him visually impaired.

But with some limitations, he can work, if he can get there.

"I know I can do stuff because I've worked in the past," Eberhardt said. "I worked all the way up until my accident and even after my accident I worked at other places. It's just a matter of getting the chance."

Eberhardt said he and friends who also have disabilities have been anticipating mass transit improvements from the passage of Richland County's penny sales tax.

And as the old CMRTA fleet makes way for the brightly colored buses of the system called The Comet, those upgrades are being rolled out.

One example is a restoration of Sunday service this weekend.

And Director Bob Schneider said for a while it will be free.

"We're able to offer that fare free for three complete weekends," Schneider said.

Eberhardt doesn't have the DART ride he once had but WIS found out he is in the system's service area, so he does have other options.

And soon he might be one of those Comet riders who will be able to take advantage of things like wi-fi on the buses and a new bus "tracker" app that could allow users to tap into Google maps and pinpoint where their bus is located as it moves down the street toward their stop.

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