EXCLUSIVE

EXCLUSIVE: Columbia’s bus system aims to increase Gamecock Express ridership

ccope@thestate.comAugust 7, 2013 

  • Gamecock Express

    What: $3.50 all-day pass to and from USC home football games

    Pickups: Greene and Sumter streets (USC’s Russell House) and Lincoln and Blossom streets (near Carolina Coliseum)

    Drop-off: At the State Fairgrounds

    When: Four hours before kickoff and for two hours after the game

    SOURCE: catchthecomet.org

— Columbia’s transit system is trying to attract more Gamecock football fans this season to the shuttle system that travels to and from Williams-Brice Stadium on game days.

The city bus system is working with University of South Carolina to get about one in 10 fans, or about 8,000 people, to attend the games by buses, reducing game day congestion and increasing safety, said Bob Schneider, executive director of Central Midlands Transit system, known as The COMET. That would be twice as many riders as in previous seasons, Schneider said.

For $3.50 on game days, riders can get a wristband that allows them to ride to and from the game after parking their cars in the Vista or on campus. The wristbands allow riders to access the entire transit system for that day in addition to the shuttle to and from the stadium. The fleet of about two dozen buses will run the shuttle route continuously beginning four hours before kickoff and then again for two hours after the game, Schneider said, giving fans the option to tailgate.

The shuttle, called the SC Gamecock Express, will pick up in front of USC’s Russell House, at Greene and Sumter streets, and at the intersection of Blossom and Lincoln streets, near the Carolina Coliseum in the Vista. The shuttle will drop passengers off outside the fairgrounds, on the Rosewood Drive side.

There are between 500 and 600 free parking spaces near the Blossom and Lincoln streets pickup. People can also park farther away in downtown and walk to catch the buses.

“(We’re) bringing the connection between the transit system the community has been looking for with downtown businesses and the university community,” Schneider said.

The city offers parking at the Park Street Garage at the corner of Park and Pendleton with a capacity of 875 cars and a maximum rate of $10 on game day, said John David Spade, the city’s parking services director.

Riders also will get black game day stickers that will say things such as, “BEAT THE TAR HEELS AND THE TRAFFIC,” with The COMET logo.

The COMET is using social media strategies like #scgamecockexpress to build awareness about the shuttle, said Tim Kelly of Chernoff Newman, which is contracted to market the rebranding of Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority to The COMET.

In the future, residents from all over Columbia may be able to catch shuttles from more than just downtown.

The COMET’s Vision:2020 plan, which sets goals the transit system wants to achieve by 2020, includes expansion of the Gamecock shuttle. Possible routes from the northwest, northeast and east Richland locations could take guests to and from USC football games and special events.

“This premium-fare service will provide roundtrip express services from key locations to downtown for game day activities based on demand,” the plan states.

Gamecock Express

What: $3.50 all-day pass to and from USC home football games

Pickups: Greene and Sumter streets (USC’s Russell House) and Lincoln and Blossom streets (near Carolina Coliseum)

Drop-off: At the State Fairgrounds

When: Four hours before kickoff and for two hours after the game

SOURCE: catchthecomet.org

Reach Cope at 803-771-8657.

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