Riders reject public transit plan

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After two hours of being berated, Augusta Public Transit Director Heyward Johnson said there's a good chance the 215 people who turned out at a public hearing Thursday put the brakes on his plan to raise bus fares and cut Saturday service.

There hasn't been a rate increase since 2001, and that's because whenever he proposes one, residents speak out and Augusta Commissioners reject it.

"It can have an effect on them as to how they vote," Mr. Johnson said.

With commissioners Jerry Brigham, J.R. Hatney and Alvin Mason listening, about a quarter of the people in attendance at the May Park Community Center gym took to the microphone and blasted what they said is already paltry bus service for a city Augusta's size. They said the proposed changes would punish the working poor, the disabled and people on fixed incomes during the depths of a national recession.

Catherine Anderson held up her monthly pass card, which under the plan would go from $50 to $55.

"The bus doesn't run on holidays, it doesn't run on Sundays," she said. "So it's a rip-off already."

Many of those who spoke said that without Saturday service they won't be able to get to work and could lose their jobs.

"If you cut the Saturday service off, you're cutting off my livelihood," Lisa Greer said.

Mr. Johnson proposes to raise fares from $1 to $1.50 and eliminate transfers, meaning riders would have to pay $1.50 every time they switch buses. He said he's trying to compensate for $1.5 million being cut from next year's budget.

Without the changes, the $1.5 million hole will have to be plugged some other way, City Administrator Fred Russell said. Under state law, special-purpose penny sales tax funds can be used to buy more buses, but not to staff or fuel them, he said. Augusta Public Transit loses an estimated $4 million per year.

Thursday's meeting was required by federal law, with speakers allowed to vent, but without officials answering questions. Mr. Johnson said comments would be compiled by a stenographer and given to commissioners.

The rate increases would raise fares further for disabled riders, who can't purchase monthly passes. Deborah Ivins, disabled from two car wrecks and speaking while sitting in a motorized scooter, said she currently pays $5.40 for a round trip to her job at Medical College of Georgia, and under the proposed plan she would pay $12.

She can't go to church because there's no Sunday service, and if Saturday routes are cut, she won't be able to go grocery shopping or to the pharmacy because she works until 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and most bus routes end around 7 p.m., she said.

"What I'm saying is, where's the planning in this?" Ms. Ivins said. "I would strongly urge you to put the priority on growing the system instead of cutting it."

Several speakers suggested public transit create a citizens advisory board to come up with ways to improve the system.

"I think if you provide a better service, you will have more ridership," said Elizabeth Bennett, who recently moved to Augusta from Philadelphia.

Mr. Hatney told the crowd that public transit's 2009 budget hasn't been decided yet, and he said he'll oppose Mr. Johnson's plan.

"There's no way," he said, "with this cry that I've heard and the pain I'm feeling, that I could support any of this."

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

PROPOSED BUS CHANGES

Augusta Public Transit Director Heyward Johnson is proposing the following changes to make up for a $1.5 million budget cut next year:


- Elimination of Saturday service


- Increase fares from $1 to $1.50


- Elimination of transfers


- Increase monthly passes from $50 to $55


- Increase various fares for disabled riders from $2 to $3, $2.70 to $6 and $4.70 to $9.

Source: Augusta Public Transit

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aaa
2
Points
aaa 12/19/08 - 11:18 am
0
0
Pay-to-play: If you use the

Pay-to-play: If you use the service, you pay for it. Don't ask taxpayers to foot your bill !

KingJames
10
Points
KingJames 12/19/08 - 11:21 am
0
0
Tired of the BS, they could

Tired of the BS, they could always get a car, or let them eat cake! Remember, many of these folks can't afford cars so how are they supposed to just get one. If they simply choose to ride the bus instead of drive, then they would not be making such a big deal about the fare increase and service decrease. Duh.

ITDoc
1
Points
ITDoc 12/19/08 - 11:26 am
0
0
Let's be careful not to

Let's be careful not to stereotype here: riding public transit when possible is advantageous for many reasons and employed by people of all walks of life in many cities.

galaxygrl
1197
Points
galaxygrl 12/19/08 - 11:35 am
0
0
Augusta needs reliable public

Augusta needs reliable public transit. It is crazy we have such a terrible service. I can't hire people that want to work because the bus doesn't run past 7 pm. Many more could use it if they use common sense, promoted the "green" value. How can you not run services on holidays when as an employer those are days I need more workers not less? Then the people that might or could come out and shop can't because they have no transportation. When I am in other towns with reliable transit, I use it! It makes sense.

noway
201
Points
noway 12/19/08 - 11:36 am
0
0
Everyone benefits from buses.

Everyone benefits from buses. With a good system, there will be fewer cars on the road - that's the ideal system. Fewer cars means less traffic. The answer shouldn't always be about widening roads and buying more cars. Fewer cars means less pollution too, which would benefit us all. Maybe single passenger SUVs should be paying to use the roads. And tall2 is right, in progressive cities, not just "the poor" ride public transportation, everyone does. If our public transportation system was good, maybe more people would use it.

KingJames
10
Points
KingJames 12/19/08 - 11:38 am
0
0
Tall2, you are correct.

Tall2, you are correct. However, a lot of the people complaining about the fare increases and cuts in service were the same ones saying how the cuts will effect their ability to work because they don't own cars. Larger cities don't really have this problem because a lot of people using public transportation are professionals who live in the suburbs, but work downtown. To them riding the bus is a good thing because they don't have to worry about traffic and parking problems. At the rate Augusta is going, the city will never have to deal with traffic and/or parking problems.

truth-now
0
Points
truth-now 12/19/08 - 11:44 am
0
0
I am all for public transit;

I am all for public transit; serves a much-needed role in our community. However, the cost of everything keeps going up and up. (pssst... it's called "inflation"). Painful as it may be, seems the cost of a fare should also increase with the times. The cost of milk keeps going up, why shouldn't transportation? Don't want to pay the increased fare, carpool, ride a bike, walk. It's another choice to make how you live your life.

seymorebutts
0
Points
seymorebutts 12/19/08 - 11:50 am
0
0
I wouldn't feel safe on any

I wouldn't feel safe on any Augusta bus. To many thugs and ho's in this town.

mar_1081
0
Points
mar_1081 12/19/08 - 01:25 pm
0
0
Get over it! I pay $5.75 to

Get over it! I pay $5.75 to ride the bus to work in Houston, TX. Yea, the buses run everyday but if its not a weekday then i have to wait 3 times as long. How do you expect the commision to come up with the money for the budget cuts without raising the cost? I know...tax the rich people or go out into you money tree farm and pick some more money.

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 12/19/08 - 02:10 pm
0
0
When you drive on the freeway

When you drive on the freeway with your SUV, do you thank the taxpayers for subsidizing the cost to build it?

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 12/19/08 - 02:16 pm
0
0
A city as large as Augusta

A city as large as Augusta without a viable public transit service becomes unnattractive to business and industry. If their workers cannot reliable get to the job because there is no public transit, that's a problem. Also by cutting the poor off from where the jobs are(most are in suburban areas), it increases the amount we have to pay for welfare and other social programs. It's also a quality of life issue overall. We subsidize countless services and infrastructure because the improve the quality of life. I say instead of spending $8million of tax money to buy the Regency Mall, spend that money to improve the bus service. $1.50 fares seem reasonable to me. That's in line with many other cities. But it is unheard of to raise fares by 50% and then drastically cut service.

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 12/19/08 - 03:14 pm
0
0
Also be aware that there many

Also be aware that there many people who cannot drive. Either they cannot afford a car, or have disabilities that preclude them from driving. Should these people simply be stranded?
Why don't we make every road a toll road? Roads are also subsidized and they are expensive to maintain.. how about a $1.50 toll on every road in Augusta?

sjones1
0
Points
sjones1 12/19/08 - 03:35 pm
0
0
oh that'll be fare to the

oh that'll be fare to the people who do live in those area's and have a car.

sjones1
0
Points
sjones1 12/19/08 - 03:35 pm
0
0
no pun intended on the "fare"

no pun intended on the "fare" LOL

mable8
2
Points
mable8 12/19/08 - 03:55 pm
0
0
Other cities have made a

Other cities have made a successful venture in providing public transportation; it did not become successful by the city/county governments sitting on the issues--they became a successful paying venture by providing necessary services to everyone by analyzing the issues and resolving them. That is what is lacking in Augusta. The bus service should expand, advertise, service all areas of the county and not just a chosen few. Fares must be attractive and affordable, even to those who would otherwise drive their own vehicles. The Augusta mentality that "only the poor and lazy" ride the buses is a weak mentality that has no perception of economic growth. I have resided in areas as large as Augusta (and larger) where public transportation is available and have used it even though I had access to private transportaton. The experience was great; I couldn't have driven my car for what I paid to ride the bus. Augusta can have the same results, but it takes quality planning and foresight to provide the important service of transportation.

oldenuff2nobetter
0
Points
oldenuff2nobetter 12/19/08 - 04:59 pm
0
0
How much does it cost to ride

How much does it cost to ride MARTA in Atlanta?

tryingtogetoutofevans
0
Points
tryingtogetoutofevans 12/19/08 - 05:48 pm
0
0
I think some people in the

I think some people in the Augusta metro area. Need to realize in big cities people with money ride the bus or the train too. Not just poor people use public transportaion. I think expand the bus service to highway 56, tobacco rd, Martinez, North Augusta, Jimmie Dyess, Grovetown, Evans, and Hephzibah. Then you will see the budget increase. If you expand the service you won't have to raise the price. And why are people complaining that our leaders listen to the community. People protested and got their results. I actually like leaders that listen to the community. I don't know about yall.

iletuknow
8
Points
iletuknow 12/19/08 - 07:02 pm
0
0
NO WAY!! Expanding the bus

NO WAY!! Expanding the bus service brings troublemakers. Just look at Regency Mall!

No_Longer_Amazed
5143
Points
No_Longer_Amazed 12/19/08 - 07:24 pm
0
0
oldenuff2nobetter: The answer

oldenuff2nobetter: The answer to your question is @ http://www.itsmarta.com/howto/fares.htm

SPIN
0
Points
SPIN 12/19/08 - 08:26 pm
0
0
wrong attitude i let u

wrong attitude i let u know... there's already bad people in the area that (apt). covers now so why not expand the system. roll the dice take a chance. i think there are better people outside of augusta then in the city limits

JohnQPublic
5
Points
JohnQPublic 12/19/08 - 08:46 pm
0
0
Why should I, as a property

Why should I, as a property taxpayer, pay more for bus transportation? I don't ride the bus. Those are cheap bus fares, anyway. You couldn't take a taxi for that amount, so I don't see what everyone's complaining about. If you want to ride the bus, pay the fare. When I buy gas for my car I have to pay what the gas station charges. I don't expect someone else to pay for the gas that I put in my car. So don't come to my house and expect me to pay for your behind to get bused around town!

JohnQPublic
5
Points
JohnQPublic 12/19/08 - 09:01 pm
0
0
Washington DC -Regular bus

Washington DC -Regular bus $1.25 Smartrip Card, $1.35 cash. Express Routes $3.00 Smartrip Card, $3.10 cash, Senior/Disabled $.60. Their Smartrip Card can be purchased online, is refillable, cost $30.00 ($5.00 for the card and $25.00 worth of bus fare on it). The Disability Smartrip Card costs $15.00 and you must show proof of disability and/or senior citizenship. Since we are a much, much smaller city, we are NOT charging enough for bus service. And, many folks in DC are on the same income level as folks here. DC has it low income and poor folks too.

JohnQPublic
5
Points
JohnQPublic 12/19/08 - 09:04 pm
0
0
Bus fares Columbia South

Bus fares Columbia South Carolina:

Standard One-Way Fare: $1.50
Special Needs Fare: $0.75
Senior Citizens Fare: $0.75
Agency Discount Ticket: $1.00 (Must call 255-7133 for details)
10 Ride Pass: $10.00
31 Day Pass: $40.00
Transfer: FREE with payment of fare
Zone Pass: $0.25
Children 5 and under: FREE when accompanied by a paying adult
SMARTRIDE Newberry one-way: $4
SMARTRIDE Newberry weekly: $30

FedupwithAUG
0
Points
FedupwithAUG 12/20/08 - 12:39 am
0
0
I think everyone should have

I think everyone should have an ID. It would tell if you get section 8 housing or if you pay taxes. If you are section 8, you pay double the fair. if you are a tax payer you pay your fair share. You can't expect the taxpayer to pay your way thru life. Oh and if you get food stamps you pay triple! Wouldnt it make sence? The more you collect the more you pay!

FedupwithAUG
0
Points
FedupwithAUG 12/20/08 - 12:44 am
0
0
Oh I forgot the poor are to

Oh I forgot the poor are to lazy to get an ID even to vote! Hail the Mexicans. Let them keep destorying our national parks.

FedupwithAUG
0
Points
FedupwithAUG 12/20/08 - 12:45 am
0
0
Lazy people suck!

Lazy people suck!

FedupwithAUG
0
Points
FedupwithAUG 12/20/08 - 12:54 am
0
0
I have an extra couch yo'

I have an extra couch yo' mudda can put on yoy porch. LOL. America has become to lazy, people expecting everything for nothing. Get a job. Work and save up. Dont spend it on drugs and drinking or the chuch for that matter.. Wake up poor folks the Mexicans are making it harder to find work. What next they become citizens and you are screwed because they are willing to work. Go ahead and riot. You did it to yourself, you are not respectful of your children. Your always looking for excuses. You blame everyone but yourself! Herein lays the problem.

FedupwithAUG
0
Points
FedupwithAUG 12/20/08 - 01:16 am
0
0
we as Richmond county

we as Richmond county taxpayers loose over 13,000 a day on public transit. We would be better off offering a taxi service then a bus system!

nutloves23
0
Points
nutloves23 12/20/08 - 01:38 am
0
0
why not make it more

why not make it more appealing to attract more ride instead of making it less attractive to turn away the rider that u have.i live in charlotte ,nc and you can catch the bus or the train to anywhere in the city or even to rockhill,sc or other surrounding city's for a buck fifty. why should augusta fares even be close to that,that's crazy.improve the route and the rider will come.

mable8
2
Points
mable8 12/20/08 - 02:00 am
0
0
Fedupwithaugusta: there are

Fedupwithaugusta: there are many who are low income that are NOT lazy or looking for handouts. It must be nice that you can afford whatever it is that you want, see, touch, or feel. If you are so 'fed up,' then why don't you take your wealth elsewhere? Most likely, you are simply a jealous church mouse who is just a finger's width away from dire impoverishment...and there are many who are in your boat (or is that 'yacht'). If some of those living in nice homes, driving the newest car becomes ill, they stand to lose everything they have because the medical bills will be astronomical. At that point, you will be needing some form of help; that's why you pay taxes (and so do I), so that you can have the help when you need it. Sometimes people become poor, not because they wanted to, but circumstances put them there. You clearly lack compassion and haven't the slightest clue what the spirit of Christmas means. You are obviously from the 'gimme' generation that has yet to learn what giving truly means. How sad for you and yours. By the way, the spirit of Christmas is a year-round thing, not just for December.

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