Few turn out to offer input

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Hundreds of people turned out at a public hearing in December when the city wanted to shut down Saturday bus lines, but not even a dozen came Tuesday to give input on how to make Augusta's transit system better.

But those who attended gave consulting firm Wilbur Smith Associates an earful, complaining of spotty service that shuts down too early in evenings, takes them far out of their way to switch buses, has them waiting in the rain with no shelters and puts them hours early or hours late for work.

Blind bus rider Gerald C. Powell complained bitterly of hardships for disabled people and several times became belligerent.

"This is a farce!" he said repeatedly, saying more people would have been at the meeting had there been more advance notice.

A Wilber Smith representative said newspaper ads ran weeks ago.

"How can I read the paper when I'm a blind individual?" Mr. Powell shot back.

The Columbia-based company is working on a five- to seven-year Transit Development Plan for Augusta Public Transit, with plans to improve the system within budget restraints and alternatives for expansion if the financial outlook improves. One goal appears to be hooking up with Columbia County Transit, something the suburban county hasn't been receptive to in the past.

Columbia County resident Royal DeAsis said Augusta needs a bus system that goes beyond the Savannah River and county lines. There's just one stop in his county, on Davis Road.

"You're not gonna' solve any problems if you just look at Richmond County," Mr. DeAsis said. "There's something called the CSRA."

Augusta Public Transit loses an estimated $4 million per year, and the Augusta Commission's decision to keep Saturday buses running has the city $1.4 million behind in efforts to spare the city a tax rate increase this year.

Despite this, commissioners have acknowledged that the city needs a viable public transit system, and they're hoping new state legislation will allow operations to be funded by another special-purpose sales tax.

"We have to get out of the mentality that public transportation is just for poor people," Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason said at a south Augusta Pride and Progress meeting last month. "If you go to Atlanta, there's a lot of rich folks riding MARTA, riding the bus."

Wilbur Smith is being paid $133,000 to develop the plan, with $13,300 coming from the city and the rest from federal and state grants.

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

NEXT MEETING

Consulting firm Wilber Smith Associates will hold a second meeting for public input today from 4 to 6 p.m. at Diamond Lakes Community Center off Windsor Spring Road. Comments can also be made by calling Augusta Public Transit at (706) 821-1816 or e-mailing Director Heyward Johnson at hjohnson@augustaga.gov.

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ONLY THE TRUTH
2
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ONLY THE TRUTH 02/18/09 - 08:07 am
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Oh Thank God!!!! When I read

Oh Thank God!!!! When I read the headline I thought William Few was back...........

mad tax payer
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mad tax payer 02/18/09 - 08:30 am
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the county could have saved

the county could have saved the money spent on this stupid survey. anything he comes up with has already been presented to heyward johnson,fred russell,mayor, and the commissioners, by drivers and supervisors, but none would pay any attention to the low class, the above knows everything when in reality they know nothing. mr. de asis knows what goes on at transit, he is a former driver and can tell you the crap that goes on .

we, the unwilling, (drivers) led by the unknowing (H.johnson) are doing the impossible for the ungrateful (passengers and the commissioners)

disssman
6
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disssman 02/18/09 - 08:51 am
0
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How about having meetings

How about having meetings that are announced at least a day in advance and have them when people aren't working. This meeting and tomorrows were designed to prove that bus service isn't needed by the city. So everyone keep voting with your eyes and not with that little thing called a brain. Because these commissioners could care less about their constituents.

curly123053
4968
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curly123053 02/18/09 - 12:07 pm
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I agree with henry on the

I agree with henry on the smaller buses. I have never seen one of those long buses more than half full on my drives to work on the Gordon Hwy. I thought about the waste in fuel a long time before all this talk on cutting routes. At least switch half of the fleet to a smaller type bus and see how much fuel is saved. Keep the longer buses for the routes where the bus capacity is almost topped........and I agree with dissman too....they always hold these hearings during the times when most folks are working ! Why is this?

DEVGRU
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DEVGRU 02/18/09 - 08:57 pm
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Complain, complain, complain,

Complain, complain, complain, but when it's time to show up and do something about it you people could care less and stay at home.

curly123053
4968
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curly123053 02/18/09 - 09:04 pm
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Were you there??

Were you there??

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