The wheels on the bus will soon go round and round on Lexington Road as a pilot program that will launch Lextran bus service in Jessamine County is set to begin in September.
“We get to name the date when we will start,” Jessamine County Chamber of Commerce director Amy Cloud said. “Since the ridership is lower in the summer, we thought September would be a good time to introduce the program.”
Cloud credited chamber ambassador Larry Prinssen with the idea of working with Lextran in an effort to offer service to Nicholasville.
“We've had bus service here before, but it didn't go over very well,” Cloud said. “So he started talking with individuals in the community, especially Sam’s Club and the folks at Brannon Crossing.”
The bus service will pick up and drop off at Sam’s Club on Kohl’s Drive and at a to-be-named location in Brannon Crossing.
From there it will travel to Walmart at the corner of Man-O-War and Nicholasville Road in Lexington. It will directly travel next to Central Baptist, then to University of Kentucky Medical Center and finally to the downtown transfer station. There will be no stops between, Cloud said.
“They went back to their board and doing their latest program, their grant writer wrote Jessamine County into the program, and they came back a couple months ago, and told us they had money for the pilot program for a year,” Cloud said.
Cloud said it will be a matching grant.
“(The federal grant) will pay half and Lextran has to come up with the other half, and Lextran said that they would split that with Jessamine County and come up with $7,200,” Cloud said.
Cloud said Lextran and Jessamine County have three years to come up with the split, and she said the local portion come from Jessamine Countians who purchase the bus passes and pay the daily fares.
“I don't foresee that being a problem,” Cloud said.
Jill Barnett, director of community affairs for Lextran, said the pilot program will act as a barometer for the bus service.
“Partnering and expanding service to Jessamine County will allow us to take a more regional approach to transportation, gauge the potential demand for service in other areas, and hopefully expand our ridership,” she said.
After the year is up, the program will be reevaluated and if successful, it will continue, Cloud said.
“We are trying to help out our commuters, and of course we’d like bus service to run continually,” she said. “But our first concern is our commuters.”
Cloud said bus service will help with congested traffic on U.S. 27 in both Jessamine and Fayette counties. In addition, it will help Jessamine residents save gas.
“It's 100 percent supported by Commerce Lexington because of that issue alone,” Cloud said. “It is also supported by the University of Kentucky, which is one of its stop because it will help eliminate some of their parking issues if they can get enough people to use it in this area.”
The program will not be the first time Lextran serviced Jessamine County, Barnett said.
“Lextran has offered similar service to Jessamine County from, I believe, October 1997 to February 1999,” she said. “It’s my understanding the service was discontinued earlier than anticipated because of poor ridership, as well as limited funding.”
Cloud said she hopes the service will appeal to people in Garrard, Boyle and Lincoln counties who commute through Jessamine County to get to Lexington.
The key, Cloud said, is selling the program locally.
“The buy-in is how we as a community advertise it,” she said. “Lextran will do their part, but some of the issues before was it was Lextran trying to sell it.”
The chamber of commerce is conducting a survey until June 19 to gauge residents’ interest in the bus service. The survey can be found at www.jessaminechamber.com.