Bus system to end Warren Wilson service

Claire Hansen
The Asheville Citizen-Times

A major change is coming to Asheville Redefines Transit bus Route 170, and more may be on the way.

The Asheville Planning Transit Division will discontinue ART service to Warren Wilson College via Route 170, the city announced in a press release. The city is asking for public feedback about additional modifications to the route, such as a reduction in the number of trips to Black Mountain and a change in the time and location of stops. The route currently runs between downtown Asheville and Black Mountain from Monday to Saturday and offers transfer to the Black Mountain Trailblazer route.

A lack of funding is responsible for the discontinuation, according to the press release. The bus route was previously funded through a combination of money from the City of Asheville, a federal grant, and Warren Wilson, Mariate Echeverry, transportation planning manager for the Asheville, said. In an email to the Citizen-Times, Kyle McCurry, director of media relations for Warren Wilson, said that the cost of funding the bus route had become too great given the small number of Warren Wilson riders.

“In recent years, Warren Wilson has been the sole subsidizer of the 170 ART bus line from Asheville to the Swannanoa/Black Mountain area at a level of $79,000 annually,” McCurry wrote. “Three years ago, President Solnick attempted to work with the city of Asheville to get some other entities that benefit from the line to share some of the cost. It does not appear any commitments materialized. The College is happy to continue sharing a portion of the cost, but it will not be the only contributing organization.”

Only 12-14 riders board the bus at Warren Wilson each day during the school year, and the subsidy per rider provided by Warren Wilson “is unsustainable,” McCurry said. The service to the college will be discontinued Aug. 1. Scheduled trips to Black Mountain won’t be affected.

The city is seeking public input on the future of the route and aims to ensure that it is still serving the needs of the community, Echeverry said. A public input survey is available online through July 15 on Open City Hall Asheville, and a public opinion meeting will be held 4-7 p.m. on July 12 at Black Mountain City Hall.

“When we first created this route, we talked to Warren Wilson, we talked to the community in Black Mountain, and we tried to accommodate the schedule to what benefited everybody,” Echeverry said. “But now there is one player not in the picture, we want to revisit and ask the public, ‘Is this still working for you?’”

Josh Harrold, Black Mountain planning and development services director, said that he expects reduced ART trips to Black Mountain due to the discontinuation of Warren Wilson service, but added that he considers the route to be vital to the community. He is encouraging citizens to voice their opinion.