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Upstate Mobility Alliance working to connect counties and communities

Imagine being able to board a bus – perhaps of the electric variety made by Upstate manufacturer Proterra – in Clemson and go all the way to downtown Spartanburg without having to use a personal vehicle.

That’s the vision of the Upstate Mobility Alliance (UMA), a coalition of public, private and community partners committed to building cross-sector and cross-jurisdictional partnerships to expand mobility and transportation options across the Upstate.

Formed in 2017 as part of the Shaping Our Future Regional Growth Alternatives Analysis led by Upstate Forever and Ten at the Top, UMA hired a full-time director in January 2020 to develop partnerships and prioritize projects that have the greatest potential to improve how we move people and goods across the region.

“Our vision is to make the 10-county Upstate a connected region, where transportation policy and investments promote innovation, sustainable development and economic prosperity for all residents and businesses,” says UMA Director Michael Hildebrand.

In addition to linking counties, the UMA is working to improve connections within Upstate communities through initiatives that increase the number of sidewalks, bike paths, greenways, and expand multi-use trails such as Greenville County’s Swamp Rabbit Trail and the Doodle Trail that connects the cities of Easley and Pickens.

“The goal is to reduce vehicle miles traveled by creating safe connections throughout the Upstate,” said Hildebrand, who previously served as Chief of Staff for Prisma Health and spent 15 years in various staff and leadership roles with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office.

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“Throughout my career, I’ve dealt with a lot of issues that could have been solved with improved public transportation and mobility,” Hildebrand said. Issues such as children not attending school because there was no safe pathway to get there and residents calling EMS to take them to a drugstore to fill prescriptions.

Access to reliable transportation also can be a barrier to employment, Hildebrand said, and UMA presently is working with a van pool service on a program to help more Upstate residents get and keep a job.

Here’s how it works. Four to 15 coworkers who live near each other pick a central meeting location, then ride together to and from work. A van pool service provides an SUV, cross-over or van, with everyone splitting the monthly fee and driving duties. The service provides full coverage insurance, fuel cards, maintenance, and 24/7 roadside assistance.

“Some companies partner with their employees to subsidize the van pool service, which helps with employee retention,” Hildebrand said.

To date, the region’s four transit systems – Clemson Area Transit, Electric City Transit, Greenlink and SPARTA – have joined the UMA to work on shared initiatives, along with 27 Upstate companies, organizations and educational institutions.

For more information on the Upstate Mobility Alliance and how you can get involved, visit the Upstate Mobility Alliance website.

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