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THE COMET RELEASES VISION: 2020/COMPASS PROGRESS REPORT

posted by Pamela Bynoe-Reed
November 25, 2020

Document details financial stewardship and fulfillment of commitment to the community.

(November 25, 2020) Columbia, SC – The Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (The COMET) is pleased to present the release of their Vision:2020/COMPASS progress report, which provides the Board of Directors, the Central Midlands community and other key stakeholders with an update on the advancements made by The COMET.

In 2010, The COMET’s Board of Directors adopted Vision: 2020, which served as the guiding framework for how The COMET was to operate. In June 2015, the Board of Directors adopted a five-year Strategic Plan, known as The COMPASS, to guide how public transit was to be provided for the next five years. This year, 2020, marks the final year of Vision: 2020 and the culmination of The COMPASS strategic plan. The results were combined into a single document which highlights the progress of the agency.

“I am proud to say that many of the actionable items in both these documents have been achieved. Continuously fulfilling our commitment to the community and demonstrating fiscal responsibility is our highest goal,” said John Andoh, Executive Director/CEO of The COMET. “I would like to especially commend The COMET Board and administrative staff for their interest and support of the delivery of the tasks in a responsible and progressive manner. It is their combined efforts which enabled the timely issuance of this report and continued provision of a quality transportation service product for all the Central Midlands to enjoy.”

Highlights include:

Fiscal responsibility and operational accountability

  • Received commendation on its financial audits and awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from The Government Finance Officers’ Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018. This was the first year that The COMET has achieved this prestigious award.
  • Successfully completed two federal triennial reviews, eight annual reviews by the South Carolina Department of Transportation and eight annual reviews by an independent auditor.

Ridership

  • Expanded service throughout Lexington and Richland Counties thereby increasing ridership to more than 2.7 million annual trips.
  • Provided continuous essential travel service throughout the 2015 flood and the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Established the Soda Cap Connector, a downtown circulator, connecting regional attractions, hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses.
  • Upgraded the fleet with environmentally responsible and technologically progressive buses, cutaways and trolleys to allow riders a safe, pleasant experience with better amenities.

Safety and Security

  • Added local policing to The COMET buses and COMET Central to improve safety and security.
  • Upgraded COMET Central and bus stops throughout the service area to include new passenger amenities.

Creative Partnerships

  • Created new partnerships with Uber and Lyft to connect low-income residents in food desert areas and provide cost-effective transit for riders during hours when it isn’t cost-effective to run bus service.
  • Created new partnerships with local institutional organizations like Prisma Health, local school districts, Midlands Technical College, Columbia College, Allen University and the University of South Carolina, which provide The COMET services to their faculty, staff and students.
  • Partnered with the City of Columbia and Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina allowing The COMET users free access to bicycles through the Blue Bike program.

The full report can be found here: The COMET Vision 2020 The COMPASS Final

According to Andoh, next steps include a strategic review and planning process over the course of 2021 to update Vision: 2020 to Vision: 2030 and The COMPASS through 2025. Key efforts would involve determining a path forward for funding The COMET beyond 2029 when the Richland County Penny is expected to be fully expended and determining a reasonable mechanism to fund transit services and continuing to deliver a quality public transportation service with mobility options to the residents of Richland and Lexington Counties.