Polk County’s Public Transportation System – anyone can ride

Published 8:51 pm Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Polk County Transportation Authority offers rides to doctors offices and grocery stores among other assistance. (photo submitted)

Polk County Transportation Authority offers rides to doctors offices and grocery stores among other assistance. (photo submitted)

It is no surprise to see white vans, buses and cars with a Polk County Transportation Authority (PCTA) logo driving on the roads early in the morning, before the sun comes up.

Need a ride? Contact Polk County Transportation for assistance.

Need a ride? Contact Polk County Transportation for assistance.

On an average day, approximately 200 passengers travel on the system.  The ridership is rich in diversity – elderly people the very young, people who can afford to buy multiple cars and those who cannot, veterans, and various ethnic backgrounds.

Looking out from the van windows are toddlers safely buckled into child safety seats on the way to day care.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Students arrive on time for classes at community college campuses in Columbus, Spindale and Hendersonville. Disabled workers anticipate their journey to Polk Vocational Services where they find meaning in their day.  Others on board the vehicles are headed to the banks, grocery stores, the library, the salon and more.  After-hours trips are made to Asheville, Greenville/Spartanburg and Charlotte/Douglas Airports making connections possible for long-distance travel.

Most days, lift-equipped vehicles head up the mountain to medical care in Hendersonville and Asheville, coordinating trips for efficiency.  Others head south on Hwy. 9 delivering employees to work in Green Creek, on the way to Marion.

Occasionally, travel is needed as far away as Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C. reflecting the importance of the transit system to those without a means of travel to specialized healthcare outside the county.

In fiscal year 2013, the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rural Operating Assistance Program (ROAP) provided approximately $121,000 to support travel for older people and people who have disabilities, to cover travel to work for those with an economic need, and for the general public.  Also, the NC Division on Aging continued funding, with approximately $36,000 to ensure that residents 60 years and older can ride anywhere in the County at no charge.

Across the country, public transportation systems are an important part of most communities.  It is the central aspect of mobility for those who do not own cars or who choose not to drive for reasons ranging from preserving the environment to saving money that would otherwise be spent on gas, insurance and maintenance on a vehicle.

Regardless of the reason for choosing public transportation, anyone can ride on PCTA with a scheduled reservation. Five-day notice is needed for out-of-county travel and two-day notice is needed for trips inside the county.  The system is most effective when it can integrate new riders and destinations into existing routes.

Small, rural transit systems like Polk’s have unique needs and increased challenges as demographics change.  However, there are many resources available to support planning, growth and funding.

For example, last May, support occurred in the form of a community input forum sponsored by Isothermal Planning and Development Commission.  Feedback obtained during the forum was used to update a Locally Coordinated Transportation Plan, a requirement for funding from DOT which also covers administrative and capital expenses.

Forum participants shared current and projected needs for their agencies and townships, including Steps to Hope, Cooper Riis, the Adult Day Care Center, Department of Social Services and the senior center as well as the towns of Columbus and Tryon. All expressed the desire to see the service expand.  To that end, transportation director Dianne Timberlake and her dedicated staff are working closely with the Institute for Transportation Research (ITRE), NC DOT, Isothermal Planning and Development and Polk County’s Transportation Advisory Board to define how best to serve Polk citizens.

The public is encouraged to contact PCTA at any time to discuss transportation needs and to learn about qualifying for available programs.

Polk County Transportation Authority accepts donations that support the expansion of service to area residents.  The system also is in need of volunteers to help keep the vehicles clean.

For more information, contact PCTA at 828-894-8203, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.  Write to PCTA at P.O. Box 308, Columbus, NC 28722, or email dtimberlake@polknc.org.


– article submitted
by Dianne Timberlake