New management company takes over city transit service

Passengers disembark an Augusta Public Transit bus at Kmart on Gordon Highway. McDonald Transit takes over the bus system today.

Riders aren’t expected to notice any change, but a new bus company takes the reins of Augusta’s fleet today.

McDonald Transit, hired by the Augusta Commission in a 6-4 vote July 16, assumes management of the city’s bus, paratransit and rural transit at an annual contract price of $4.3 million its first year, $4.4 million its second year and $4.5 million its third year, according to a cost proposal obtained by The Augusta Chronicle.

The Fort Worth, Texas, company – owned by the international transit group RATP – operates public transportation systems across the U.S., and has annual contracts worth more than $1 million in Edmond, Okla., Colorado Springs, Colo., Asheville, N.C., Austin, Texas, and three national parks.

McDonald has proposed to cut the city’s annual transit bill by reducing annual maintenance, equipment and administrative costs and eliminating a position, according to the proposal. The proposal also appears to show a slight hourly pay hike for 12 bus operators, to $13.68.

The details weren’t as important as a ride to Julissa Carter, who was waiting for a bus on Broad Street Wednesday afternoon. The New York transplant said she wished her 15-minute trip to Peach Orchard Road didn’t take more than two hours by city bus.

“They have no consideration for the working people,” Carter said, grateful for the free rides available to college students.

Expanding the service south and west has been a priority for several members of the commission who preferred bringing it back in house to hiring McDonald, but the transit contract doesn’t provide for any expansion.

City Administrator Fred Russell, however, said he’s asked McDonald to present “a plan” for expanding the service in about 60 days.

McDonald replaces Mobility Transit Services, which filed suit against the city after its contract was terminated, alleging violations of the city’s procurement policy and the state’s Open Meetings Act, among others. Both parties recently emerged from court-ordered mediation with no settlement, and Augusta continues to allege Mobility owes the city $199,134 for bus parts.

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