Riders upset about Monday bus shutdown

The city’s addition of Veterans Day as a holiday – and the elimination of bus service Monday – isn’t sitting well with Augusta Bus Riders Association.

“They’re already taking Black Friday, which is the worst thing. They’ve never taken Veterans Day,” said Geraldine Wilson, head of the riders group. “They’re treating us like cargo, not customers.”

Wilson said she learned of the change Friday, and demanded and received a refund for the Monday portion of her $15 weekly bus pass. Wilson said she thought it was a decision by McDonald Transit, the city’s new bus operator.

But city officials said the service doesn’t operate on city holidays, which were expanded earlier this year to include Veterans Day at the urging of Commissioner Bill Lockett, a veteran of two U.S. armed forces.

“Bus service doesn’t run on city holidays,” said City Administrator Fred Russell, who didn’t answer a reporter’s question about refunding riders for the missed day.

The service’s limited hours and days – there is no service on Sundays – are a common rider complaint, but McDonald is operating the service as is.

The company, which took over in August, has proposed expanding hours and routes, but the changes will cost the city about $2.15 million more per year.

McDonald is saving the city money over prior operator Mobility Transit, which tied up the city with litigation when the commission voted to terminate Mobility’s contract.

The service remains a money-loser, in that fares do not fully cover operating costs, although most buses are purchased using federal grant funds.

Wilson, who is self-employed, relies heavily on the service and unannounced changes disrupt her routine.

“I am all over the city every day,” Wilson said. “We’ve been waiting for changes for years. They talk about it and nothing gets done.”

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