“Let’s ride!” shouted area officials after cutting the ribbon on Greenwood County’s new public transportation system.

“Greenwood County is moving forward,” Greenwood County Council Vice Chairperson Chuck Moates said.

Moates said the transportation system, which began July 1, has already received 500 inquiry calls and assisted 37 passengers.

“For years, many in our community have expressed the need for an affordable and reliable means to get them to such places as a doctor’s appointment, the pharmacy, grocery store, ordinary trips that all of us make,” Moates said. “And whether it was because of a disadvantage or lack of private transportation or economic limitations, many of these trips were unnecessarily difficult to schedule.”

Earlier this year, the county applied for a grant from the state Department of Transportation that would fund the system at $150,000 with a 50/50 match from the county. The county’s match required the county’s millage to rise by 1 mill in this year’s budget.

The county partnered with McCormick Area Transit to provide transportation service within a 2.5-mile radius of the Greenwood County Courthouse, where the ribbon cutting took place. Riders can request a ride to a doctor’s office or medical appointment, grocery stores, pharmacies or other essential shopping. Rider fare is $1 per trip and $2 round trip.

Trips must be booked by 2 p.m. the prior day and can be scheduled in advance.

MAT Executive Director Becky Powell-Moon challenged Greenwood County residents to use the system. But, Moates had a warning about not taking advantage of the system.

“If you don’t use it, you lose it,” Moates said.

Powell-Moon said when they first started the system in McCormick County in 2006, they saw no riders the first full week. She said it was great that in its first few weeks in Greenwood the numbers are looking promising.

SCDOT is providing more than just grant funding. MAT will receive additional funding for two new vehicles with money provided by SCDOT.

“This is huge,” said Christy Hall, state secretary of transportation. “I get what it means to live in a rural area.”

Hall, who is from Abbeville, said her department has committed to spending $450,000 over the next three years on the system. Though, Hall said many contributed to getting this system off the ground.

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” Hall said. “Today is a realization of a dream that’s been more than a decade in the making.”

For 15 years, Greenwood County Councilmember Edith Childs has worked to get a public transportation system in the county. She was on hand to cut the ribbon Monday.

“It’s an indescribable experience,” Childs said. “Because this has been my baby for 15 years or so.”

Childs said it was a long time coming.

“Now they have transportation and they can call and make your reservation,” Childs said. “I’m so excited.”

To schedule a ride on MAT TRANS, potential riders may call 864-538-4500 or visit amble.routematch.com/register?a=sc_mccormick.

The service runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and is not available on Saturdays, Sundays or major holidays.

Contact staff writer James Hicks at jhicks@indexjournal.com or on Twitter @jameshicks3.