While the sound of classical music played softly in the background, Claire Shae stared out the window on her trip home from the Columbia County Senior Center.
Shae turned to her friends and told them one word described her view -- "perfect."
She was looking out the large windows on one of the county's two new Sprinter shuttle vans, which together cost nearly $124,000, said Jeff Asmann, the manager of the county's senior center and public transit department.
The new vans went into service last month and offer passengers, who are coming to and from the county's senior center, a more spacious, safe and convenient ride at no cost.
The shuttles also provide advantages for the county.
"It's not comfortable and pleasurable at all to be packed in and cramped up in a little van, so it's a lot better for them," said Pam Tucker, the county's emergency services director.
"And again, we're going to benefit from the additional safety features, the fuel mileage and the fewer maintenance problems."
Tucker estimated that the shuttles will use a third less fuel than the older vans.
The 14-passenger shuttles replaced two of the center's aging vans, which the county is donating to the cities of Harlem and Grovetown.
The new diesel-powered shuttles come equipped with three emergency exits and a sensor camera that detects any movement behind the van.
Asmann noted that passengers as tall as 6 feet 2 inches can stand in the vans without bumping their heads on the ceiling.
"I love them because they're easy to get in," passenger Martha Letiza said. "It feels like there's more room."
Another passenger, Clifford Dalson, agreed, stating he liked having more space to stretch his long legs.
He also had plenty of room to stash the painting he won while playing bingo earlier in the day.
The shuttles not only make round trips to the senior center, but also take passengers on field trips and other outings at least once a week.
Members of the senior center have taken numerous trips in their new ride. Passengers seemed to enjoy taking excursions to Augusta Mall, the Augusta Canal and Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, and visiting the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia.
"It's just like having a new car," Letiza said before she was dropped off at her Martinez home.
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