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Area transit systems near bottom in providing transportation to jobs

Tuesday, July 10, 2012 10:30 PM
Last updated Wednesday, July 11, 2012 12:42 AM
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Metro Augusta’s public transit system remains in the bottom 5 percent nationwide for providing workers convenient transportation to their jobs, according to a new study.

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Conchita Hall waits for the bus to leave the Social Security Administration office in Augusta. Metro Augusta's public transportation system is in the bottom 5 percent nationally when it comes to convenient trips to jobs.  JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
Conchita Hall waits for the bus to leave the Social Security Administration office in Augusta. Metro Augusta's public transportation system is in the bottom 5 percent nationally when it comes to convenient trips to jobs.

The Brookings Institution study ranks metro Augusta 97th out of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas for its ability to get a worker to a job within 90 minutes via public transit. It also ranked the area 95th for having jobs in neighborhoods with public transit.

“The suburbanization of jobs obstructs transit’s ability to connect workers to opportunity, and jobs to local labor pools,” study author Adie Tomer wrote.

The metro area has no regional public transportation system. The cash-strapped, privately-managed Augusta Public Transit is the area’s largest but has only nine routes, with all but one radiating from downtown Augusta and stopping at county boundaries. Aiken County’s Best Friend Express operates five routes that stop every two hours at North Augusta and Aiken locations.

For the metro area, which includes four Georgia and two South Carolina counties, bus systems are less likely to deliver workers to jobs because 48.1 percent of 248,471 available jobs are outside city limits, according to the study.

Geraldine Wilson, the president of the Augusta Bus Ri­ders Association, said she was not surprised by the findings and listed several manufacturers that are not on Augusta’s bus routes.

City Transit Planner Juriah Lewis, who helps develop transportation plans for the entire metro area and writes transportation grant applications, admits city bus routes don’t extend to the area’s largest employers: Fort Gordon, Plant Vogtle and Savannah River Site.

The status of Augusta’s contract with Mobility Tran­sit Services LLC, the firm it hired Aug. 1 to manage the bus service, hasn’t helped improve transit access, he said.

“I haven’t seen what they can offer, because they’ve been too busy defending themselves,” Lewis said.

Augusta warned Mobility earlier this year that the firm needed to correct several staffing, vendor payment and other issues or risk losing the city contract. Mobility is attempting to correct the issues, but that leaves little room now for improving or expanding access to the service, Lewis said.

Mobility is the first private firm to run the service since the city purchased it decades ago. Whether it remains on board, one adjustment next year promises change for the bus service.

When federally funded studies are complete, the city will move its transit headquarters to a new shared 100-acre site with Richmond County Board of Education school buses, re-orienting the entire city service to a location several miles south of downtown and likely to drive route changes.

Another potential for change is the transportation sales tax going to voters July 31. If approved, it promises about $8 million dollars over 10 years for transit operations, which currently cost about $5 million annually.

The transit system stays abreast of job developments in Augusta and isn’t above tweaking routes to entice new industries. Lewis recalled making adjustments to routes to ensure riders have access to Automatic Data Processing and Sitel a year or more before those businesses arrived.

Commissioner Jerry Brig­ham, an advocate for privately run public transit, said he helped encourage the reconfiguration of one route to allow access to a new Social Se­curity Administration office near the Augusta Ex­change shopping center and to reach the University of Phoe­nix.

RIDE THE BUS

The Augusta Bus Riders Association is sponsoring “Ride the Bus Day” on July 23 to encourage ridership. Participants should take a bus from their homes or businesses the morning of July 23 and gather at noon at Kmart in West Town Market Square on Washington Road, according to a news release. The association wants riders to contact it at (803) 221-1339 to share their experiences about the service.

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itsanotherday1
42250
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itsanotherday1 07/11/12 - 01:28 am
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Ft. Gordon, Vogtle, and SRS.

Ft. Gordon, Vogtle, and SRS. Really???? Ft. Gordon, maybe; but Vogtle and SRS, both 40 miles away? The distance alone invalidates the findings.

countyman
19734
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countyman 07/11/12 - 01:58 am
2
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The public transportation in

The public transportation in this area is pathetic for a metro close to 600k... The majority of Richmond County, and a portion of CC/AC should have public transportation... Progressive cities are the one's who realize the bus system isn't for poor citizens.. The airport, Fort Gordon, Hwy 56, etc should be included in the routes.. Extend the hours to around 1am on weekdays, and 2am on the weekend..

Techfan
6461
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Techfan 07/11/12 - 03:59 am
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Maybe Mobility Tran­sit

Maybe Mobility Tran­sit Services LLC should do like the University of Phoe­nix and hire trolls to go to various web sites and say how great they are. They're still a diploma mill that greatly overcharges students, but the good reviews thrown by their staff helps bring up their ratings.

Sweet son
10111
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Sweet son 07/11/12 - 12:55 pm
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Lewis and Brigham!

Juriah and Jerry both in their own way have missed the boat. Juriah, as the route planner, should know that his long run routes won't work and are a waste of money! Jerry maybe did a nice job for those going to get a check but did nothing to help someone who might go to work and put something back into the economy! I watched a big bus and a baby bus parked in front of the SS office yesterday for an extended period of time! Also everyone should watch and notice what the ridership is. None! Another bus service that the taxpayer is funding is the Jaguar Express for ASU. Watch for the ridership on that one two. At least the Express has reasonable size buses. Diesel fuel costs alone for both services make per person rides very expensive.

Little Lamb
45384
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Little Lamb 07/11/12 - 01:52 pm
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Another Change

Well, when K-Mart on Washington Rd. closes later this year, they can adjust that bus route. The bus won't need to go all the way to Davis Rd. when K-Mart closes. It can just stop at Pleasant Home Rd. and turn around.

Little Lamb
45384
Points
Little Lamb 07/11/12 - 01:56 pm
1
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Depot

It seems to me they should have the main depot located more in the center of the county, perhaps somewhere on Gordon Hwy. or maybe Deans Bridge Rd. The main depot is where most transfers would take place. You don't want to have the central transfer station to be on the very edge of the service area.

Little Lamb
45384
Points
Little Lamb 07/11/12 - 03:34 pm
0
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Mandate

We have an example of a solution in the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PAPACA) — there you have a federal mandate that every company with a payroll over a certain size has to provide health insurance for its employees.

Well, why not have a Worker Protection & Affordable Transportation Act (WOPATA) — where you have a federal mandate that every company with a payroll over a certain size has to provide some sort of transportation for its employees. Some might use buses, some vans, some van pools, some cash subsidies for cars, etc. Put the burden on the businesses to pay. That'll really help the recession.

Little Lamb
45384
Points
Little Lamb 07/11/12 - 02:03 pm
1
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Water Park

Let's be sure we try and help that man who is building the water park near Harlem. He needs several bus routes to bring kids to his water park.

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 07/11/12 - 04:02 pm
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http://augustagreenway.org/wo

http://augustagreenway.org/wordpress/

We need buses but I get the feeling we should be pushing to support the above effort just as much and more. Especially considering teh comments that point out the cost of diesel and per-person costs, etc.

@ LL, I'll be the big child pushing kids out of the way to get first in line for the waterslide. Doesn't that count as support?

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