A new program announced by the state's Department of Transportation on Friday will allow residents to travel I-79 on public transit for less than a tank of gas.
Fares for the I-RIDE 79 program start at just $3 and go up to $15, each direction - depending on where the passenger boards - and will run between Charleston and Morgantown starting July 1, making daily stops in Charleston, Clendenin, Flatwoods, Weston, Clarksburg, Fairmont and Morgantown.
"That's the mission of the DOT, make travel efficient, affordable and safe for everyone and this is doing just that," Carrie Bly, spokesperson for the DOT said. "Everyone can use this. You're talking about college students that can come home for the weekend. Also, seniors or people needing to go doctor's appointments. There are a lot of people that go to the VA hospital in Clarksburg. Now, they have that access that they didn't have before."
The service will be funded with federal money appropriated to develop and support intercity bus transportation and operated in cooperation with Barons Bus Lines of Cleveland, Ohio as part of a nationwide effort to connect rural areas and urban centers to create connections of greater regional, statewide, and national significance. The service will provide links with Greyhound in Charleston and Morgantown where passengers can travel onto Pittsburgh and Washington, DC.
As for the 56-seat buses themselves, John Goebel, Vice President of Baron Bus Lines said they will be top of the line.
"Maybe I'm a little bias, but I think they're the nicest buses on the road," he said. "They're all going to be 2013 [models] or newer. They have Wi-Fi, they have power outlets, they have six flat screens on the bus. We're not showing movies currently, it could be something we look into in the future. Every single vehicle which we operate on that service will be ADA accessible and every single seat will also have a seat belt."
Though the program hasn't made its first run, there are already talks of providing other services to people of the Mountain State.
"It hasn't even started yet and they're already thinking about could we accommodate travelers that are going to the WVU games," Bly said. "They are thinking about that and that's something we could see in the fall."
"We would be looking into that for sure," Goebel said. "As ridership and demands continue to expand we will definitely explore those opportunities as well."
The program comes in part as a response to a demand for more transportation options, considering the fact getting around is increasingly more costly.
"People are looking for these kind options and the price of gas isn't going down," Bly said. "For older populations or younger populations, this is a new option for them."
In celebration of the new service, rides will be free for the first week, July 1-7.
The inaugural trip will depart the Greyhound Terminal at 300 Reynolds Street in Charleston at 10:15 a.m. on July 1.
To view the bus schedule and reserve your seat, call 888-378-3823 or visit www.baronsbus.com.