The Pony Express is an enhanced transit system offered by the Aiken Area Council on Aging that allows people to ride into the urban Aiken area from outlying parts of the county.Three buses are dispatched to rural areas of Aiken County - Wagener, Jackson/Beech Island and New Ellenton - three days a week to help those who might not be able to secure transportation on their own run errands, make doctor's appointments and the like.Once in the Aiken area, riders can jump on a Best Friend Express bus at stops along a designated route and make it to their destination.Aiken Area Council on Aging Director Scott Murphy said the Pony Express is funded by federal stimulus money funneled through the South Carolina Department of Transportation.The service is offered free of charge to riders.The New Ellenton bus starts for the Aiken area at 7 a.m. in the Highway 19 area and picks riders up at Todd's Shop & Go and Duke's Bar-B-Q. The bus runs until about 5 p.m.The Jackson/Beech Island route starts at 6:45 a.m. and picks riders up at Jackson Town Hall on Main Street. Riders are dropped off at the Reid's in Clearwater, where they connect with a Best Friend Express bus.Pony Express also hits areas in Wagener, Salley and Perry."With the way the economy is, we're trying to get people in the rural areas into the Aiken area," Murphy said.Ridership numbers are good so far, but if more people take advantage of the service, it can give the Aiken Area Council on Aging more leverage to request extra funding from SCDOT to bump up the service to six days a week.The buses run Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and the first Saturday of every month.For more information, call the dispatch office at 648-6493.
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