February 14, 2021. Six new 17-passenger transit buses hit the road in Henderson County, with 80,000 passenger trips projected annually for the vehicles.

The new buses run on compressed natural gas (CNG) to support clean air quality and will replace several older, high-mileage transit vehicles that were plagued with high maintenance costs and intermittent service problems, according to a news release from Western Carolina Community Action.

Funding to purchase the six buses came from Federal Transit Administration grants and the county coffers, the release adds.

Although Henderson County owns the buses and the transit system, it contracts with Western Carolina Community Action to use the equipment to operate three fixed transit routes across the county.

Each year, Apple Country Public Transit makes 60,000-70,000 passenger trips across the three routes as residents use public transportation to access work, shopping, medical appointments, school and other community services.

The new buses are four feet shorter to allow for easier handling and can carry up to two wheelchair occupants and 15 passengers. The buses also feature electric wheelchair lifts, new fare boxes and message boards, and will soon be equipped with technology to provide ridership data across all routes.