Coast RTA unveiled its new “customer first” safety and security program Wednesday that includes installing route stop signs and bus shelters throughout its network, equipping all buses with security cameras and instituting a zero-tolerance policy for its customers.
For Coast officials, the new measures are an effort to make customers feel safe as the public transit system continues growing.
General manager Myers Rollins said 500 to 600 route signs are going to be erected at all stops in Horry and Georgetown counties over the next 12 months. The plan is to put the project out to bid in the next 30 days.
The project also includes installing 47 bus shelters at key destinations along the Grand Strand, Rollins said. Those spots are places where there are five to 15 passengers over a five-hour period.
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Some of the key destinations are Coastal Grand Mall, 21st Avenue in Myrtle Beach near the Department of Motor Vehicles and area Walmart locations.
Rollins said that coming from large, urban mass transit systems in places like Ohio, he was taken aback seeing that Horry County riders had to flag a bus down.
“I felt it was inherently unsafe,” Rollins said.
He said he felt Coast RTA wasn’t ready to proceed with the signs and shelters until there was dedicated revenue to install them for growth. That funding source came when a millage increase to fund the transit system was placed on a November 2010 nonbinding referendum that more than 60 percent of registered voters supported.
That millage increase, plus money from the Horry County Council’s Atlantic Business Center fund, gave Coast RTA $1.08 million in annual county funding. It’s helped the transit system develop new routes like an entertainment shuttle to popular attractions around Myrtle Beach and prepare to start a fixed route service to Myrtle Beach International Airport.
With the funding in place, Coast moved forward with its plan. Rollins said the next 30 days will be spent soliciting a professional firm to design the route stop signs, manufacture the poles and install them at stops all over Horry and Georgetown counties. He’d previously secured a $1 million grant to help with the endeavor.
One part of the new safety and security program already in place is cameras on all Coast buses.
Spokeswoman Yvette Jefferson said the cameras were installed as of Oct. 23, 2012, while those for Coast’s facilities were put in place as of Dec. 18.
The cost of the bus cameras came out to approximately $64,125 and they were purchased through federal and local funds, Jefferson said.
Facility cameras were purchased through federal funding and totaled $28,500, she added.
Jefferson said transit authorities throughout the country have been wanting to install cameras on buses, and Coast RTA had federal funding available to pay for the devices.
She added the cameras weren’t in response to on-going problems on Coast’s buses. Jefferson acknowledged there are times when riders say they got hurt on the bus, and cameras give officials the opportunity to go back and see what led to the injury.
All buses now have stickers saying there are audio and video recording devices on board, Jefferson said.
Law enforcement across the Grand Strand have partnered with Coast as part of its new safety program. Representatives from county and city police departments were present at Wednesday’s announcement.
Rollins said another component of the program is a zero-tolerance policy on Coast RTA buses and at its facilities. Loud music, profanity and disorderly conduct won’t be tolerated.
“We’re going to expect of our customers ... the same thing the airlines expect when you’re flying a plane,” he said.