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Transit expansion plans gain ground

Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 10:38 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 12:29 AM
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A plan to expand Augusta Public Transit across south and west Augusta and to Fort Gordon gained traction Monday as an Augusta Com­mission committee decided to hold a work session on the topic.

Commissioners Alvin Mason, Bill Lockett and Cor­ey Johnson listed such a move as a goal during last week's commission retreat. The vote by the public services committee is a shift from a policy of the past three years of cutting transit costs, which led to a 2011 decision to outsource the bus service to a private company.

Mason said Augusta needs to escape its “somewhat archaic” view of public transit as a service used only by the very poor.

“Any city that's worth its weight … has a good transportation system that covers (the) entire city,” Mason said. “It's high time and past time that we start looking at increased transportation.”

The transit system was one factor that didn't work in the city's favor when Star­bucks was weighing Augusta for a new plant, said former Star­bucks site consultant Matt Kwatinetz at the retreat.

“In all the major cities, the young people are getting away from automobiles,” Lockett said.

Mason had already researched plans to extend routes to Fort Gordon, west Au­gus­ta and Columbia Coun­ty. He invited community activist Brad Owens to speak about a plan he developed years ago to use spare city buses to run express routes from Fort Gordon to downtown.

Owens told the commission that at the time, he had full agreement from the post's garrison commander.

“Right now, it's a minimum of three soldiers per cab for $10 each,” Owens said. Round-trip, “that's $60 each.”

Commissioner Wayne Guil­foyle suggested scheduling a transit workshop within two weeks. His motion, seconded by Johnson, passed 3-0. Commissioner Grady Smith was absent because of illness.

Commissioners said little about how to pay for the service beyond existing tax revenue. The city's contract with Mobility Transit runs through 2016, but the commission has an opportunity to review it this year, officials have said.

Last year, the commission warned Mobility that it was in danger of default after the Florida firm didn’t pay vendors or perform testing appropriately.

“We're going to have to deal with that,” Johnson said.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

Also Monday, Augusta Commission committees voted to:

• Re-establish a subcommittee to study inequity in the property tax system

• Assume maintenance of Doug Barnard Parkway from the Georgia Department of Transportation

• Approve a $473,858 architectural change order for renovations at the municipal building

• Review the cost of adding an 11th paid staff holiday on Veterans Day

• Hold a 9 a.m. work session Jan. 14 on the city’s 2009 study of disparities that exist in the award of contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses

• Re-establish an advisory committee with revised bylaws to supervise activities of the Housing and Community Development Department.

Comments (12) Add comment
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ColCo
711
Points
ColCo 01/08/13 - 07:22 am
0
3
No thanks...

No thanks Al, I don't think the commissioners in Columbia County will allow you to extend public transit past the county line. Now that K-Mart is closed, I would expect them to eliminate that route too.

jpbrig
170
Points
jpbrig 01/08/13 - 10:05 am
0
0
Mayor Al

This is part of Al's campaign for Mayor.

Little Lamb
45379
Points
Little Lamb 01/08/13 - 10:08 am
2
0
Mullins, Brandon-Wilde, Sports Authority

You would think that Columbia County would welcome a bus route down Washington Rd. to bring workers to and from Club Car, shoppers to Mullins Crossing and Sports Authority, and allow visits to relatives in Brandon Wilde. They could also do some shopping in Goodwill store on Washington and get a burger at the Side Track Tavern.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 01/08/13 - 11:09 am
3
0
This is the same Transit system that

has extreme cost per rider numbers?

But I do like the idea of Express routes.
With NO drop off and pickups in between aka Home Deliveries, it would serve a real purpose.

But will the Cab Companies Mafia Owners agree to the idea?

countyman
19731
Points
countyman 01/08/13 - 11:15 am
3
0
The article mentioned the

The article mentioned the $172 million Starbucks under construction... I was told transit wasn't important to Augusta, and we should do nothing related towards expansion .

countyman
19731
Points
countyman 01/08/13 - 11:15 am
2
0
What happen to everybody?

I also noticed all of the posters from yesterday 'magically' skipped the article... This is a great idea due to the number of people at Fort Gordon who like to frequent downtown.

rebellious
20630
Points
rebellious 01/08/13 - 11:54 am
1
0
Countyman

Please shoot me a message with an email address. I have a question for you offline. Use my profile contact tab.

Thanks

Little Lamb
45379
Points
Little Lamb 01/08/13 - 05:03 pm
0
0
Reasearch?

Susan McCord reported:

Mason had already researched plans to extend routes to Fort Gordon, west Au­gus­ta and Columbia Coun­ty.

I don't think Commissioner Mason did anything that could legitimately qualify as research. All he did was wonder, “Wouldn't it be nice if busses ran to Fort Gordon, west Augusta, and Columbia County?” Somebody else will have to come up with routes, costs, benefits, downsides, etc.

catawba7
319
Points
catawba7 01/08/13 - 08:37 pm
0
0
I would like to see Comm. Mason as Mayor

I also agree with his wanting to extend transportation to other counties, but, let's get better routes all over Augusta and how about having more buses to run more often than every hour.

Mason as Mayor good idea to me...can you hear the support Comm. Mason?

Brad Owens
4290
Points
Brad Owens 01/08/13 - 09:40 pm
0
0
Thanks Susan...

I was asked to present the plan I put together from 2006 when I was on the DDA and I think we will be able to get it done this time. Exactly what is being proposed by me is a true public-private partnership to have a private funded express service from Ft. Gordon to downtown. The buses I want to use are surplus and can no longer be used for APT due to the Federal purchase guidelines set down when they were purchased with Fed money (all over the allowable ten year limit to be public transit buses used by the city).

I was told there are 14 spares in REALLY good shape and have six to eight years of good reliable service left in them. So they can sit, be auctioned off for pennies on the dollar, or they can be used for the remaining seven years of serviceability as part of this program.

Although this would be mostly funded with business sponsors, the commission is looking into expanding their own regular service too. What I presented will be a part of a transit expansion I hope, but our buses will be subsidized by private businesses and hopefully we will be able to get it's operational expenses covered completely.

I do however believe that a good public transit system is a vital part of a city's infrastructure if it is going to grow. This plan of mine is just a piece of the transit puzzle, not the one answer to all the problems.

I am cautiously optimistic this will happen soon.

Brad

Brad Owens
4290
Points
Brad Owens 01/08/13 - 10:00 pm
0
0
countyman,

If the bus idea happens, will you add the bus service to that extended list of things you always tout?

;-)

Ray Marks
48
Points
Ray Marks 01/09/13 - 01:35 am
0
0
Transit Dollars

I hear that 5 million is earmarked for Augusta Transit from the TSPLOST tax revenue. Even if true and I knew it ahead of time, I would still vote no on TSPLOST. Yeah, still hating that we got stuck with this tax...

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