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Commissioners want to expand city transit service

Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 8:22 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 1:16 AM
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The private firm that manages Augusta Public Transit might be on the way out as the Augusta Commission develops a plan to expand the transit system.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey John­son said he called a Feb. 12 work session, with Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s approval, to discuss issuing “requests for proposals” from companies to develop “a comprehensive plan of expansion” for the transit system and to operate the service.

The current operator, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Mobility Transit Services, is 18 months into a five-year contract, but Johnson said he didn’t think it has commission support to handle the expansion.

“It’s not going to exclude Mobility from responding to the RFP,” he said.

Mobility has long been a target of Commissioner Bill Lockett, who raised concerns about its treatment of employees, many of them former city bus drivers, and its nonpayment of vendors.

“It’s about time we had movement on that,” Lockett said. “It’s way overdue.”

Commissioner Alvin Ma­son has pushed for expanding city bus routes into southern parts of Richmond County and to Fort Gordon. Johnson said he expected Mason, a retired Army sergeant, to help the buses gain entry to the Army post.

Commissioner Wayne Guil­foyle, whose district includes part of the southern areas targeted for expansion, said he hoped adequate study would be done to ensure new bus lines go where they are needed.

He echoed the words of Starbucks site recruiter Matt Kwatinetz, who told commissioners at a January retreat that a lack of public transit is holding the city back.

“We asked the question, how can we attract more industry?” Guilfoyle said. “His answer was transit.”

The commission expects to fund the expansion using the new transportation sales tax, which includes a $7.55 million line item for Augusta Public Transit. The tax, approved by voters last year, can be used for transit maintenance and operations.

Decisions about transit won’t come this week, but the the ambulance service is up for commission discussion today.

Commissioner Joe Jack­son on Monday defended the city’s relationship with Gold Cross EMS, which has provided ambulance service since 2005 under a contract the city’s fire chief, Chris James, said was too vague to be enforced.

Jackson said several elements James said were missing from the contract, such as mutual aid agreements and GPS tracking of vehicles, actually did exist, while good alternatives to provide EMS service were few.

“I don’t mind going out for a contract,” Jackson said. “I don’t think you’ll get anyone to bid on it.”

Johnson spoke in favor of a recent commission push to put large contracts up for renewal out for bids. Under the agreement, Augusta pays Gold Cross $1.9 million annually for ambulance service.

“The contract of seven years or so ago was poorly written,” he said. “All contracts should go back out for bids from time to time.”

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Augusta Commission meeting

WHEN: 5 p.m. Tuesday

WHAT: Transit work session

WHEN: 10 a.m. Feb. 12

WHERE: 530 Greene St., eighth floor

Comments (19) Add comment
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rebellious
21295
Points
rebellious 02/04/13 - 09:41 pm
6
1
NIMBY

We don't need no stinkin transportation ouchere. Keep it within the Tobacco Road perimeter, thank you very much.

countyman
20588
Points
countyman 02/04/13 - 10:25 pm
4
1
I don't think it should go

I don't think it should go past Tobacco rd either, because the airport is located at Tobacco rd/Doug Barnard Pkwy..

Little Lamb
46958
Points
Little Lamb 02/04/13 - 10:59 pm
4
0
Empty

I see buses empty or almost empty most of the time. If you run a bus down Hwy. 56 just to impress the Starbucks managers, you are wasting a lot of diesel fuel. Global warming here we come!

:-)

Little Lamb
46958
Points
Little Lamb 02/04/13 - 11:27 pm
3
0
Transfer

One of the fatal flaws of the current (it is historical, and not Mobility Transit's fault) transit system is the location of the main terminal at 15th and Broad. Look at a map. You have to go to the very northern edge of the county to transfer. They should establish a spider web of multiple transfer depots in the center, north, south, east, and west to allow bus riders to get anywhere quickly. Alvin Mason toots his own horn and says he is an efficiency expert. I'm sure he can really make up some good bus routes that will make Richmond County the poster child of public transportation in the U.S.

Wayne guilfoyle
162
Points
Wayne guilfoyle 02/04/13 - 11:38 pm
5
0
Transit

The study was to warrant where the demand for transit should go. Nothing worse than having a bus stop or stops with no riders. I would hope that the outcome of worksop would focus on the populated areas that would be in need of Transit. Wayne Guilfoyle

countyman
20588
Points
countyman 02/05/13 - 12:44 am
3
4
6,000 daily riders must be the first goal!

It's pretty sad the daily ridership is only around 3,000 when there's over 200,000 residents in Richmond county. The number should be closer to 6,000 riders in the year 2013. I don't know you can expect to compete against our peers, or attract industry without increase ridership. Major companies receive great satisfaction concerning healthy public transportation systems. Why should they invest in Augusta if our own government won't invest in Augusta?

I'm excited about the future possibilities, and hopefully we can move forward quickly. Healthy public transportation = less carbon monoxide, additional foot traffic, new jobs, lower obesity rates, less money on road/highway maintenance, less traffic on the roads, increased sense of community, provides access to jobs, etc.

The entire public transportation systems needs to be revamped. New designs, electrical buses, additional routes/buses, and becoming 24 hr(can begin with 1-2am). Demolish the bus transfer station on Broad near Harrisburg, and sell the property to GRU/private sector(property located right next to the 25 acre development). The city is building the main bus depot in South Augusta, and you can build the transfer station/police precinct in the CBD.

The Augusta Exchange, CBD, Medical District, and Fort Gordon are four easy destinations to start off with. Make sure to connect these four areas in the beginning, and then move on to other destinations. The next areas can include the Augusta mall, Washington rd, Hwy 56, or the airport. Due to all of the industry located on Hwy 56 a bus route might be warranted.

The general idea is to connect residents with jobs, entertainment, and shopping. Jobs are clearly the number one priority, and then the shopping/entertainment destinations next.

Riverman1
86957
Points
Riverman1 02/05/13 - 06:14 am
3
3
Niki Broun for Transit Director

Maybe we should put Niki Broun, Paul Broun's wife, in charge of the Augusta Transit. She said she would do away with it.

seenitB4
90853
Points
seenitB4 02/05/13 - 07:01 am
4
0
Gwinnett transit problems

Very few riders use the buses within the county BUT ....the buses going into downtown are LOADED...most park at Sugarloaf Mall & this option is really paying off....some things work.

GnipGnop
12466
Points
GnipGnop 02/05/13 - 09:08 am
1
0
Ok I will bite....

How does riding a bus lead to lower obesity rates?????

Little Lamb
46958
Points
Little Lamb 02/05/13 - 12:09 pm
1
1
Park/Ride

Okay, here's a start to help Alvin Mason get his transit system off the ground:

The city can buy the parcel behind the day care center at Riverwatch & Furys Ferry Rd. to be a park/ride lot for downtown. The parcel has been for sale for years. Thousands of Columbia County citizens go by there every business day.

Then, Monday through Friday, run buses downtown along Riverwatch Parkway. From 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. run buses every thirty minutes downtown and (here's the genius part) close the eastbound Riverwatch left-hand lane from Fury's Ferry to 15th street to private vehicles (it would be for buses only during those hours).

Likewise, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. run buses every thirty minutes from downtown and close the westbound Riverwatch left-hand lane from 15th St. to Furys Ferry to private vehicles.

Columbia Countians would gladly ride the buses during rush hour just to avoid the slowdowns in the right hand lanes! A million dollars at a minimum would flow into the transit budget each year! Also, Roundtree's traffic patrols could write tickets for those scofflaws who dared enter the left-hand lanes and generate more revenue for the general fund.

During the rest of the day and night, plus weekends, Riverwatch would function as it does now. Buses could run every 90 minutes outside of the rush hours; and no bus service would be needed on Riverwatch on the weekends.

On special occasions, such as during the Futurity and Border Bash, they could operate the park/ride lot and provide bus service without the special lane closures.

A similar park/ride setup could be provided during Masters Week to ferry patrons to golf action.

Wha-da-ya-say, Al?

countyman
20588
Points
countyman 02/05/13 - 11:50 am
1
4
The citizens will have to

The citizens will have to walk to access the different bus stops. They also have to walk to their destination once they get off the bus. Walking around the city easily promotes a healthy lifestyle.

Sweet son
10738
Points
Sweet son 02/05/13 - 12:21 pm
2
0
Several Thoughts!

rebellious' comment is correct! Nothing south of Tobacco RD.
countyman is also correct! Increase ridership. Double sounds good!
LittleLamb and I agree there are no riders on the buses!
Riverman has hit the nail on the head! BYE!
seenit is correct! Run buses only where you have ridership!
And LL your statement: Columbia Countians would gladly ride the buses. LOL! Ain't going to happen! People who live in average $250K to $500K subdivision houses are NOT going to ride a bus!

One final thought on ridership. I saw one of the big buses pull up at the entrance to Augusta Mall at 10:00 this morning. Guess how many riders got off? One and maybe he was the driver!

countyman
20588
Points
countyman 02/05/13 - 12:38 pm
1
2
Sweetson... I think you might

Sweetson... I think you might need to visit some of the larger cities. I see plenty of citizens with tons of disposable income in Manhattan using the bus and subway. When I visit Chicago I always notice how many yuppies use the public transportation system. Cities like Chattanooga and Greenville probably have even more professional citizens accessing public transportation.

Many upper middle class residents in the urban core of Augusta are more than willing to ride the bus. It's more about the particular lifestyle, and not the actual money.

Columbia County is a little different considering it's mostly families, and not the single/young professional crowd. Even though the bus already runs through Martinez along Washington rd. The majority of people in Columbia County don't live in homes over $250k. The price is closer to around $175k, and I think people always tend to forget about Grovetown and Harlem.

Little Lamb
46958
Points
Little Lamb 02/05/13 - 12:40 pm
1
0
Pernicious Riverwatch Traffic Lights

I just thought of an enhancement to make my park/ride lot plus bus-only lane idea more appealing to Columbia County commuters:

Equip the buses with electronic devices to control the traffic lights. That way, the lights at River Shoals, Alexander Drive, the I-20 interchange fiasco, the gas station, and Stevens Creek Rd. could all be made to be green for the buses. I'm sure lots of commuters would pay for a trip with no red lights!

Riverman1
86957
Points
Riverman1 02/05/13 - 01:33 pm
2
0
Countyman, when I look at the

Countyman, when I look at the City Data website it lists Columbia County median price of homes at about 180,000. Augusta-Richmond Cty at 100,700. Is that right?

GnipGnop
12466
Points
GnipGnop 02/05/13 - 03:14 pm
3
0
The only reason people use mass transit in places like New York,

Chicago or Manhattan is because of the atrocious costs of parking. As far as riding the bus making people walk any further? That's just not reality. People that will walk will walk and lazy people will be lazy. That's just the facts. By your logic not having a bus system should make people more healthy because they are forced to walk anywhere they want to go that's not serviced by public transportation.

Fiat_Lux
15912
Points
Fiat_Lux 02/05/13 - 03:16 pm
2
0
One thing that would help

is if there were some kind of interface between the bus terminus in the downtown area with the shuttles from MCG. That said, the MCG shuttles don't have enough stops or have them at the right places, but they charge outrageous parking fees. It was $10/mo for all MCG staff to park where one could find a space. Nothing was reserved except handicapped spaces.

That now has jumped to $30/mo for a peripheral lot (looooooong trek that's awful in summer heat and in rain) or a hefty $60/mo for a reserved spot. Health Inc. staffers part for free, so no help there in terms of bus riders unless gas prices keep marching skyward.

Little Lamb
46958
Points
Little Lamb 02/05/13 - 04:18 pm
2
0
CBD vs. MedDist

Going back to my park/ride lot model at Furys Ferry & Riverwatch, with the buses running every 30 minutes, they could be staggered such that one bus would head into town and go along Jones till it ends, turn right to Broad, turn left to 6th street, turn left to Reynolds, turn left and go back out Riverwatch to the park/ride lot at Furys Ferry.

The next bus could go down Riverwatch from Furys Ferry and take the Medical District exit and drop off workers at VA Hospital on 15th, MCG complex on 15th, then turn left on Laney Walker and another left or two to drop off at University Medical complex, then head on back to Reynolds and back out to Fury's Ferry.

In other words, stagger the buses so one goes downtown, the next goes to medical district. How about that?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Cool Factor: Closing those left-hand lanes on Riverwatch during the rush hours should be cool enough for Dr. Azziz to beam with delight.

dichotomy
34428
Points
dichotomy 02/06/13 - 08:26 pm
0
0
Just tell me how will more

Just tell me how will more buses be paid for without taking an extra dime from the Richmond County taxpayers? That's all I want to know. You know you don't have riders enough to pay for it. So who is going to pay for it?

All us taxpayers hear is build this, build that, expand this service, float a bond for that.....and oh by the way......we've got this budget shortfall thingy. I think the whole lot of you are out of you minds.

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