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Public transport system’s future could be in doubt

Will MAT Trans cease service for Abbeville County as of Dec. 31?

Mat Trans is a public transportation system which, since November, 2021, has transported passengers in Abbeville County.

People without any other means of transportation have been using it for transportation to medical appointments, to get groceries, and other, similar things.

The system was being funded by Abbeville County and SCDOT in a 50/50 split.

Now it appears that the “match funds” that Abbeville County has been using to fund the project are about to run out, and the system will cease as of Dec. 31.

Celeste Reed of Sawmill Acres in Abbeville spoke during the public comment segment during Monday night’s County Council meeting.

She said that the system transports dialysis patients, and cancer patients and other kinds of patients to their medical appointments.

“We who have transportation take that for granted,” she said.

She said she has spoken with a number of County Council members about the problem.

“If you could, find a way,” she said, noting that the public transit system serves a purpose in Abbeville County.

It allows the elderly to maintain a degree of independence, for example.

“If you don’t have a car, you’re lost,” she said.

During a break in the meeting, she said she uses MAT Trans herself, since her car has been having to be repaired.

“Mat Trans has transported me to and from my job daily,” she said.

In the audience for the County Council meeting was Becky Moon, who provided some figures, noting that from Jan. 1, 2023 to Nov. 30, 2023, the system has transported 4,341 residents of Abbeville County.

Moon is the executive director of the McCormick Senior Center and McCormick Area Transit.

“I’m the executive director for the agency that operates MAT Trans,” she said Tuesday.

She said that if the system ceases to operate in Abbeville County, it will continue to operate in Greenwood and McCormick counties.

Currently, in Abbeville County people do not pay to use it.

“It’s a demand response transportation system,” she said.

An individual will call MAT Trans, and the bus will pick up that individual and take him or her to their destination.

“We go to medical offices, dialysis, essential shopping, such as Ingles and Walmart,” she said. “We go to Abbeville Area Medical, Calhoun Falls family practice, dental appointments, drugstores, work and school.”

“It is a non emergency system,” she said.

“Abbeville County only agreed to up to $150,000, or a one year contract, whichever one of those came first,” said Abbeville County Director David Garner Tuesday.

The funding so far from the County came from funds generated through ARPA, federally generated funds in response to the pandemic.

The county does not have any plans to fund it for another year. “It was not a budgeted expense,” he said.

“We notified MAT of this back in September, and met with them in October,” he said, noting that in October he and other County representatives encouraged MAT Trans to seek other community partners to utilize the service.

“We can’t continue to fund it with County funding alone,” he said, adding that he believes other community partners should share in the funding.

“I am very concerned that we will lose this public transportation,” said Dr. Bill Boone, executive director of United Christian Ministries of Abbeville County Tuesday.

This system is used by many people to go to physicians’ appointments, and similar destinations, he said.

Many people in Abbeville County who are on dialysis use it to go to Self Regional in Greenwood for their dialysis needs.

“Without this transportation we’re back to Square One,” he said. “One of the few counties in South Carolina without public transportation.”

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