Although it has only been operating for four days, officials say the bus service is already a success and poised for expansion. Commuters seem optimistic as well.
"I think it is providing (commuters) an alternative right now to save some money on gas and vehicle expense," said Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham, who helped organize the service this summer.
Monday morning felt like the first day of school, he said. "(Riders) were excited that they were actually seeing something happen because we have been talking about it so long."
Discussion on creating a bus service began in May, when residents and officials met to consider options for easing the burden of summer gas prices. Several ideas were studied at the time including establishment of a carpool network and regular bus routes to Winchester under Lextran.
Eventually a deal was worked out with Foothills to provide two 14-person buses for each pick-up time in the morning and afternoon. Wal-Mart has also furnished up to 60 parking spaces on the southern end of its parking lot for a pick-up and drop-off point.
Foothills is providing the service without any funding from local government. Riders can buy a monthly pass for $40 or pay $2 each day as they board. However, riders who have not signed up for the route must notify Foothills at least 24 hours in advance to reserve a seat.
"I think it is something that we needed in town for quite some time," said Janet Kugelman, who originally proposed the idea of a local park and ride.
Kugelman, who works at the VA in Lexington, said riders are trying to recruit others by word of mouth, and many people have expressed intentions to sign up for the service in October once it has been running for several weeks.
"I really enjoy riding the bus versus driving in that traffic over there," she said. "For the most part, I think everyone likes the service."
David Sowder, director of transportation for Foothills, said the organization will likely increase the bus size or add new buses as the service continues to grow. New routes and times may also be added if enough riders express a need, he said.
"It's going to expand and change over the next few weeks," he said, and many riders have told him they are pleased with the convenience and price.
"That's probably the most important thing to them - $40 a month or $2 a day is not that much for a trip to Lexington," he said. "I think people are really excited about the price."
So far the only problem has been too many people showing up without a reservation, said Sowder, who emphasizes that seats are not guaranteed without 24-hour notice unless the rider is already signed up.
He said commuters can sign-up for the rides by e-mailing him at
Foothills is also working with the City of Winchester and Clark County Fiscal Court to establish an in-town bus route with more than 30 stops in Winchester. The Winchester Board of Commissioners and Fiscal Court have partnered to subsidize the program over a trial period of several months.
Fiscal Court approved a list of stops Wednesday, and Sowder plans to present the list to city commissioner for approval next week. If all goes well, Sowder hopes to begin in-town service sometime in October. But the in-town service and the routes to Lexington will function as two separate programs.
Branham said he wants to organize another community meeting on the subject of transportation in October to discuss the bus service to Lexington and consider other similar ideas.
"I think we will probably watch this and monitor it for a few weeks and then try to explore and see if there is any more bus routes that can be provided," he said. "And then maybe revisit the carpool option."
In the meantime, Estes, who uses a power wheelchair and commutes from Estill County in a van, is glad to begin saving money.
"It has been good for me," she said. "It has provided me with a chance to take my chair back and forth every day."
Contact Mike Wynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.