Closings and delays

All aboard: Riders say new Sunday bus service will allow them to save money, be more social

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Driver Michael Campbell stays alert at a stoplight while riders Julie Ross, Alandis Douglas and others relax during the first day of Sunday bus service along the route to Hames Mall in Winston-Salem, N.C., Sunday November 03, 2013.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Fourteen people boarded the 12:30 city bus that runs from downtown to Hanes Mall on Sunday.

Normally, that number wouldn’t be a big deal. But this bus service is new – the 720 route is one of seven to begin Sunday service.

City officials will be watching the routes closely. If there’s not enough ridership, the service – with its $450,000 annual price tag – may be cut back or eliminated.

Charles Brantley hopes that doesn’t happen. Brantley was one of those 14 riders – he was going with his wife Laporcha and daughter Gabbriele, 4, for an afternoon of shopping at the mall.

The Sunday service gives him and his family options for the weekend. And compared to driving a car, the bus is relaxing and saves money on gas, Brantley said.

“There’s a lot more things you can do,” he said about the Sunday service. “You can get out and mobilize a little more. I see myself using it again”

Brantley and his wife don’t need the bus to get to work – they have a home-based business, Gabby’s Snacks, where they make and sell their own snacks and desserts. But he likes the bus service because it’s more social.

“When you’re in the car, you just talk to your family. You don’t get to see everyone like you normally do,” on the bus, he said.

The bus rumbled down First Street, through West End and up Hawthorne Road toward Ardmore.

On a typical weekday, the hospital stops would be among the busiest. But on Sunday, only one person exited the bus near Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and no one got on.

At Forsyth Medical Center only one person got off, Sandra Thompson, who was on her way to work at K&W Cafeteria.

No one boarded at Forsyth.

When the bus arrived at the mall, all the passengers remaining on the bus exited, and two new riders boarded – Sherry Clark, 19, and Travon Lomax, 17.

Sherry Clark works retail at the mall. She had a 10 a.m. mandatory meeting, and so she took the bus. Without the bus she would have had to get a ride from family or friends.

“Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a car,” she said.

The bus returned to Clark Campbell Transportation Center at 1:30 p.m., an hour round trip.

The fare is $1, but many riders had monthly passes.

That includes Jimmie Tyson, who rode a different bus, the 717, which he boarded on 14th Street to come downtown for a meeting near the Central Library.

Because he has a monthly pass, he could ride the Sunday bus for no additional fare.

Without the bus, he would have to get someone to drive him downtown, and would have to pay them cash for gas. With the bus, he’ll no longer have to do that on Sundays.

“That’s a lot of money saved,” he said.