Tourists and locals are taking advantage of a free shuttle bus service to some of Myrtle Beach’s most popular entertainment destinations, but unless a new funding source is found, the service might not be available in future summers.
Charging for a ticket to ride is a last resort, says Brian Piascik, general manager of Coast RTA.
That slows down the entire system, causes reliability issues and would discourage riders, Piascik said.
“It’s really good ridership for us,” Piascik said.
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“I want to keep it, but we’re getting to the point in these discussions, that I’ve got to find revenue sources for it,” Piascik said after a county transportation committee meeting Monday.
The county council is a major contributor to the transit system, which also relies on federal grants.
The biggest change this summer is that open-air vehicles are used to take advantage of the sea breeze to keep passengers cool and keep costs down.
“One of the reasons we were shutting it down, it had very poor reliability because of AC issues,” Piascik said.
“With all that glass, it was like trying to cool down the inside of an oven and we had complaints last year,” Piascik said.
The Myrtle Beach Entertainment Express runs from Ripley’s Aquarium at Broadway at the Beach to The Zipline, then from Ocean Boulevard from 9th Avenue North to 29th Avenue North, and then returns to Ripley’s Aquarium.
The service runs from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m., from June through September.
The free bus service last year ran for only 92 days and provided 70,000 rides, Piascik said.
About 60 percent of the riders are tourists, and the rest locals, he said.
The transit system does not begin its new budget year until this fall, and officials are still in talks with local entities for fiscal year 2018 funding.