Companies have been leaving Martinsville and Henry County in recent years, so residents were pleasantly surprised to see something return: public bus service.
The Piedmont Area Regional Transit (PART) provides bus service throughout the city and county between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Scheduled stops include shopping centers, schools, government agencies, medical offices, an adult day-care center and major employers, including Stanley Furniture and Hanesbrands. The fare for each trip is $1.
RADAR, a Roanoke-based nonprofit organization, manages PART as well as bus services in other small cities and rural areas, including Covington. John Desper, RADAR’s director of transportation, says that Martinsville had bus service about 20 years ago. A feasibility study found that renewed service was needed.
In the first three weeks of operation, PART served 71 riders. Desper expects demand will rise as people learn about the service. He notes that Covington bus service had 54 riders in its first month but 250 by its second month.
Desper says that local bus service can have economic development benefits because some prospective businesses want transportation options for their employees. “If a big employer is looking to possibly locate in the industrial park, local leaders can say, ‘Yes, we have public bus service, and that location is a stop on the bus route,’” Desper says.
The Martinsville-Henry County has been hard hit by the loss of textile and furniture manufacturing over the past decade.
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