After a lengthy discussion about the need to expand the city’s public transit services, the Augusta Commission on Tuesday agreed to revisit a 2009 transit study that has yet to be fully implemented.
The work session was called to discuss issuing a “request for proposals” to develop a plan for expanding the service, but the commission took no action on the matter. Toward the end of the meeting, commissioners agreed to take another look at the study that recommended changes to routes and bus stops.
“We haven’t mastered what we have in place now,” said Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson. “To even talk about expansion, we need to talk about what we have in place now.”
Johnson said a request for proposals will eventually be issued after a closer look at the study and a proposal to the commission,
Mayor Deke Copenhaver and the commissioners present Tuesday agreed that public transit is an asset to citizens and the economy although it is almost guaranteed to lose money.
The expansion is expected to be funded using $7.55 million from a new transportation sales tax.
Transit is an economic driver that any city needs to attract businesses and improve the environmental footprint, said Commissioner Alvin Mason. The current system doesn’t operate long enough hours to meet the needs of some major employers, especially call centers, he said.
“There’s some that believe, in error in my opinion, that transit is just used for poor people,” Mason said. “That’s a good reason but that’s not the only reason.”
Commissioners Grady Smith, Mary Davis, Joe Jackson and Donnie Smith were absent from the meeting.
Adding weekend bus service from Fort Gordon, enhancing bus stop signage and shelters and improving bus timeliness were among many suggestions from commissioners.
An official from Mobility Transit Services, the private firm based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that manages Augusta Public Transit, said his company wants to be included in the expansion and will work at the direction of the city commission.
“We want the opportunity to continue what we’ve been doing here for the last 18 months,” said President Cullan Meathe. “In terms of service, performance, cleaner buses, cleaner shelters, mobility has delivered on all those accounts.”
Also at the meeting, city transit planner Juriah Lewis said federal funds have been secured to move the bus depot from a property near 15th Street to Ga. Highway 56. A new 50,000-square foot administration building and maintenance shop will cost between $6 and $8 million.
Proceeds from the sale of the 15th Street property, valued at $500,000, will be invested back into transit services, Lewis said.