Transit upgrades would cost city extra $2.15 million

Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 9:01 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 11:15 AM
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Plans to improve and expand Augusta Public Transit could cost taxpayers more than $2 million, city commissioners learned at a Monday committee meeting.

Commissioners also forwarded the issue of characterizing downtown Augusta as a “slum” to next week’s full commission meeting, citing ongoing work on the proposal that might make it more agreeable to constituents.

Tim Lett, the vice president of McDonald Transit, divided the company’s recommendations to improve and grow the city’s bus and paratransit service into three phases, beginning with increasing the frequency of bus stops to no fewer than once an hour and eliminating unused segments of routes and some difficult turns to save time.

A revised “crosstown” route takes in the Social Security office at Augusta Exchange, Doctors Hospital, Augusta Mall and the Deans Bridge Road Wal-Mart at an extra annual charge of about $14,000, he said, while increasing frequency of the Augusta Mall route, which runs from Broad Street to the mall, to every half-hour and adding an extra bus to ensure on-time stops will double its annual cost to $881,857.

Altogether, Phase 1’s route and stop tweaks will cost an additional $583,535, bringing the city’s annual expense to run bus routes from $3 million to $3.6 million, Lett said.

Phase 2 of the plan involves adding a Saturday flea market route, an hourly Fort Gordon Route and a new south Augusta route, to travel Deans Bridge Road, Meadowbrook Drive, Windsor Spring Road and Tobacco Road. Including paratransit costs, the additions of Phase 2 total $1.1 million annually, he said.

Phase 3 is extending bus service hours, a common rider complaint. The increase will cost $439,319.

The three phases, if implemented, would cost $2.15 million more than the $3.02 million the city now pays.

Commissioners are budgeting for next year, and a draft budget presented by City Administrator Fred Russell includes an $8.5 million shortfall he’s looking to the commission to determine how to fill.

“What is it going to take from us to make this happen?” Commissioner Bill Lockett asked of the transit improvements.

“Six votes and a funding stream,” Russell replied.

The city has some funds available from the Transportation Investment Act, or TSPLOST. The list of projects approved by a regional committee included $7.5 million over 10 years for Augusta Public Transit, “an avenue that we could look to,” Russell said.

Russell said he wanted commission consensus on funding the upgrades, which don’t include a fare increase, before moving forward.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said he liked the plan’s elimination of unused stops and would consider implementing a phase if funding is available.

In another matter, the city’s finance committee forwarded authorization of a controversial “slum” designation to next week’s full commission meeting. Commissioner Donnie Smith, who made the motion to refer the vote, said Augusta Regional Collaboration Project Director Matt Kwatinetz was in Atlanta working with contracted bond counsel on the project.

Russell, who initially proposed using Georgia laws that allow government agencies to issue tax-exempt bonds to benefit “slum” areas as a way to finance $26.5 million of $40 million in ongoing renovations at the downtown government complex, said Kwatinetz and others were working toward a proposal that will be revealed next week.

The proposal will include language “not quite as offensive,” change the boundaries of the proposed “slum” and potentially benefit another downtown project in the works. He wouldn’t elaborate on the other project, although he said at a previous meeting a business wants to bring several hundred jobs to a downtown location if conditions are right.

“Next Tuesday we should know whether or not that is a viable option,” Russell said.

In other business Monday, commission committees:

• Unanimously approved revoking the alcohol, business and dance hall licenses held by the nightclub Skittlez for allowing – according to the sheriff’s office – a minor inside. Skittlez, a black gay club on Gordon Highway, was already on probation with the city for an incident earlier this year involving another minor and an adult male stripper

• Authorized Marriott operator Augusta Riverfront LLC to install a shared chiller plant to serve Augusta Convention Center, Augusta Conference Center and the Marriott on city property. Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said he approved the measure because it costs the city nothing and hotel and city utilities are to be metered separately.

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Little Lamb
45863
Points
Little Lamb 10/28/13 - 09:46 pm
5
1
From the story - - -

City Administrator Fred (What, me worry?) Russell . . . said [city consultant Matt] Kwatinetz and others were working toward a proposal that will be revealed next week. The proposal will . . . potentially benefit another downtown project in the works. He wouldn’t elaborate on the other project, although he said at a previous meeting a business wants to bring several hundred jobs to a downtown location if conditions are right.

The phrase “if conditions are right” means if the city will finance my project with tax incentives and cash investment, (i.e., a "public/private partnership"). Taxpayers will sink again. Piled on top of our new, higher medical insurance premiums, we're doomed.

dichotomy
32755
Points
dichotomy 10/28/13 - 11:12 pm
5
2
Oh yeh, we don't quite have a

Oh yeh, we don't quite have a big enough budget deficit so let's expand bus service areas, and frequency of runs on a money losing bus line that hardly has any riders. Our politicians have champagne appetites and want to pay for it out of my beer barrel budget.

countyman
20064
Points
countyman 10/29/13 - 01:35 am
3
7
Lets move into the future

The local government will have to offer incentives in order to attract large employers and grow the tax base.. If the cities of Columbia, Greenville, Charleston, Knoxville, Baton Rouge, Greensboro, Chattanooga, Winston Salem, and Savannah are offering incentives then Augusta must provide the same opportunity..

The improvements related to the bus system can easily be paid from using TSPLOST funds... I'm excited the proposal includes both the Augusta Exchange and Fort Gordon. The whole purpose should be to connect the population with the jobs. The entire system must be expanded to around 1-2am and then become 24hr in the future... The new South Augusta route including the Augusta Regional airport(straight shot down Tobacco rd), or the creating a new route for the airport is more important than the Saturday flea market idea.

The local public transportation here in Augusta is clearly mediocre and the economy continues to suffer.. Both Starbucks($172 million) and the company ADP($40 million) have explained we need to expand our public transportation. How can you expect to attract large businesses with subpar public transportation? Around 3,000 people use the system daily and the number could easily reach 6,000... If the number one priority includes connecting the Augusta mall, Washington rd, Medical District(Paine College), Fort Gordon, Augusta Exchange, CBD, and Peach Orchard then everything will take care of itself. Then you focus on the adding the different routes(Deans Bridge, Gordon Hwy, 15th, Laney Walker, Tobacco, Wrightsboro, Windsor Spring, and Meadowbrook) to the system.

Hopefully we can build the new multi modal center in the CBD very soon, because the main depot is opening in South Augusta. The multi modal center should be home to the local buses, charging stations, and the street car(running from the CBD to the Medical District). The city of Augusta can sell the terminal on Broad street to either GRU or an private developer.

Riverman1
83603
Points
Riverman1 10/29/13 - 04:53 am
5
1
TSPLOST Funds

TSPLOST funds could be used to purchase buses, but can't be used for maintenance of the vehicles. Also, the region TSPLOST has to approve any such expenditures. It would seem the operating expenses and maintenance costs would be high for new bus routes.

Little Lamb
45863
Points
Little Lamb 10/29/13 - 07:02 am
5
3
Ridership

If a reporter asks the average man in the streets, "Would you like to have more bus routes and more frequent bus service?" of course the eager answer is, "Sure!"

But when you actually see a bus rolling down the street, there are no riders on it.

Augusta needs to shrink bus service, not expand it. That would go a long way to shrinking the city's annual deficit.

seenitB4
86824
Points
seenitB4 10/29/13 - 08:01 am
4
1
They will have to expand

Think now....What parts of Augusta will get section 8.....they will expand the routes for them....don't know how many will use the airport but they will definitely use the Mall.....like Regency.....ya baby.

countyman
20064
Points
countyman 10/29/13 - 12:16 pm
1
3
Moving Augusta forward

The TSPLOST funds can be used for operations and maintenance... $7.5 million is already going to the Augusta Transit and the region doesn't have to approve it... The region decided on the projects even before the citizens were allowed to vote.

The bus already goes to the mall and the people working at the mall aren't on section 8 anyway.. It's also funny that people are bringing the Regency Mall up in relation to the Augusta mall. Then again none of those people actually live in Richmond County.

''Augusta needs to shrink bus service, not expand it. That would go a long way to shrinking the city's annual deficit.''

The city deficit is related to the general fund, and how does less people getting to work actually shrink the deficit... The less people working in Augusta means an lower tax base... The worse the public transportation system is the fewer number of companies opening...

Sweet son
10340
Points
Sweet son 10/29/13 - 12:12 pm
2
2
Like LL said watch those BIG buses go by and see how many

people are actually on them. It's all a joke! Just say NO! It is nothing more than just another entitlement.

I have been buying my own rides since I was 16 years old and have never and will never ride a city bus.

Get your own ride. Call some of the folks who provide rides to the polls.

Bet I get a response or some thumbs down.

Little Lamb
45863
Points
Little Lamb 10/29/13 - 01:43 pm
2
1
Who's in charge here?

From the story:

Russell said he wanted commission consensus on funding the upgrades, which don’t include a fare increase, before moving forward.

Is Russell imposing demands on the commissioners? Russell reports to the commissioners. Russell answers to the commissioners. How dare Russell tell the commissioners they are not to include bus fare increases as part of an increase in revenue stream?

Russell never shies away from imposing tax increases, but all of a sudden he gets cold feet over a fare increase? What gives?

Sweet son
10340
Points
Sweet son 10/29/13 - 01:53 pm
2
1
Thanks for the 'thumbs down!

Knew I would get you!

corgimom
32181
Points
corgimom 10/29/13 - 03:44 pm
0
3
I can do math, and I know

I can do math, and I know that if $7.5 million is allocated for a 10 year time span, and it will cost $2.1 million to upgrade the system, the money won't last 10 years but will only cover 3 1/2 years. But hey, why would anybody have a problem with that minor detail?

I also know that there used to be bus service to Ft Gordon and it failed due to lack of ridership. Because when the soldiers get released to go off post, they know that they need to leave immediately, because if they don't, they are going to be stuck "volunteering" for things. They all chip in for a taxi and get the heck off of the Post ASAP.

Little Lamb
45863
Points
Little Lamb 10/29/13 - 04:13 pm
2
2
Pie In The Sky

While they're all dreaming of expanding the bus service, why not think big and run a bus an hour down to the Starbucks plant at the industrial park?

dichotomy
32755
Points
dichotomy 10/29/13 - 04:43 pm
2
1
"and the economy continues to

"and the economy continues to suffer."

What is suffering here is the TAX PAYERS....and the mayor, commissioner, administrator, and progressive cheerleaders ARE DOING NOTHING TO HELP THEM.

I do not wish to pay more property taxes OR additional sales taxes in order to have some contractors drive empty buses over expanded routes just so the cheerleader section can chant "we've got good bus service." If you want good bus service then fix the FARES where they pay the BILLS.....all of the bills. I went to the mirror and checked and I DO NOT have CHIEF SUBSIDIZER tattooed across my butt. It is NOT my responsibility to subsidize anyone's food, housing, cell phones, child care, medical care, OR TRANSPORTATION.

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 10/29/13 - 07:11 pm
1
1
"It's also funny that people

"It's also funny that people are bringing the Regency Mall up in relation to the Augusta mall. Then again none of those people actually live in Richmond County."

Well countyman, here's someone from Richmond County saying it....I agree with seenitb4. Augusta Mall is a beautiful place but if something isn't done to curtail the rift-raft....it'll end up just like the Regency Mall before long.

countyman
20064
Points
countyman 10/29/13 - 11:31 pm
0
1
ICL... The same people have

ICL... The same people have been saying that for 10 plus years now.. The riff-raft as you simply put it, they don't live close to the Augusta mall.. The 1-2 mile demographic of the Augusta is much better than working class(Regency Mall)..

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