The East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission plans to drop the Kmart stop from the East Route of the ACTS fixed-route system, substituting a stop at the Anniston Plaza Shopping Center, home of Zaxby’s and Anniston Family Fitness, in its place. The stop at the Anniston Plaza Shopping Center will be removed from the system’s North Route, which is generally pressed for time on its hour-long schedule, according to Shane Christian, transit project administrator with the planning and development commission.
Bus driver Jean Tidball said the Anniston Plaza stop is definitely one of the top spots along the North Route, where many riders get off at Sav-A-Lot, Burke’s Outlet, Citi Trends and Big Lots.
The North Route has stopped at the Anniston Plaza Shopping Center for years because no other route extended that far north, he said. But transferring the stop, he added, simultaneously frees a couple of minutes on the North Route while adding no extra time to the East Route.
The ACTS system operates four directional routes, stretching southward on Alabama 21 to the Oxford Walmart and toward the Oxford Exchange, and northward to Weaver City Hall. The East Route runs along Leighton and Christine avenues, stopping at both hospitals and running down to Coleman Road. The West Route runs along 12th Street to the Wesley Park Apartments and back along 15th Street, stopping at St. Michael’s Clinic on 18th Street and City Hall at 12th Street.
The bus system has become more popular over the years, with an average monthly ridership of more than 10,000 since the fiscal year began in October — about 75 percent more than the ridership of nearly 5,800 five years ago.
The growth can be seen on sometimes crowded buses, four of which are running at any given time.
“We have some vehicles that are standing-room only at times,” Christian said.
Christian said he doesn’t have any one reason why ridership has grown over the years, but he said it could be the result of increased cost of living, especially gas prices and mandatory automobile insurance fees.
“I’m hoping at the core of it,” he said, “it’s serving a need for the community.”
North Route riders on Friday afternoon said they use the bus for job-hunting and commuting to work.
Earl Morris, an 88-year-old Anniston resident, said he rides the bus system about every other day. Before he got off at the Anniston Walmart to run a few errands, he said he primarily rides the North Route but also likes to ride into Oxford to stop at places such as Walmart and Center of Hope.
“It’s pretty darn exciting as far as I’m concerned — meeting people and exercising,” he said. “I think it’s good for my health, both mental and physical.”
Christian said the commission hopes to put the new routes into effect on April 11, but before that can happen, the public must have a chance to comment on the proposal.
The move is considered the elimination of a stop, which requires the planning and development commission undergo a public comment period before making the change.
Anyone wishing to provide feedback on the change may do so in person at the commission’s Anniston office at 1130 Quintard Ave., Suite 300. Comments may also be sent to Kenneth Bentley at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 2186, Anniston, AL 36202. The comment period is open through April 11.
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.