City, county to study need for bus system

Griffin-Spalding   County Transportation Planner Anthony Dukes said a study to determine local public transportation needs – a project that is several years in the works – should soon be underway.

“The study may not kick off until early next year. The scope of work – this is what we are looking at,” Dukes said. “We will identify all the activity points in the city and county, all the employment in the city and county, retail shopping and housing density that would support public transit. We haven’t identified the needs. We want a consultant to come in and tell us that, to look at everything in the community and hold public meetings.”

Dukes said local officials have already heard from some that the need for public transit exists.

“Well, I mean, we’ve heard it throughout when we did the transportation plan,” he said. “People have asked why we don’t have a bus system.”

Dukes said with the approval of both the Griffin Board of Commissioners and the Spalding County Commission, a letter was submitted months ago to the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), which is set to act as the recipient of federal funds that will be utilized for the study.

“It was basically just a letter requesting that the ARC act as the recipient of the funds and disperse them to the county for the sake of conducting the transit feasibility study,” Dukes said. “That was just a technicality, so that they would have something to pass on to the FTA (Federal Transit Authority). This is something that’s been in the works for three or four years. The ARC is in the process of entering the information into the FTA system.”

The information being submitted is only a scope of work draft, as the final report will be obtained during the pending study.

The request is for $150,000, with a 20 percent match required, which leaves the city of Griffin and Spalding County each contributing $15,000 to determine what public transit needs are.

A public transportation system does currently serve the area – a 5311 Rural Transit System – said Three Rivers Regional Commission Government Services Director Robert Hiett.

“It’s basically a demand-response type system based on where the people are and where they need to go,” he said, adding that riders must call in to schedule their pick up time and location and designation. “We check the availability of the bus based on other calls and other routes we have.”

Hiett said the fare – $2 one way – has remain unchanged since the system’s 1998 incorporation, designed to serve a five-county region including Spalding, Butts, Pike, Lamar and Upson counties.

The system provides approximately 82,000 annual rides throughout the region, with Griffin-Spalding County accounting for 25,000 to 30,000 of them.

Hiett said historically, approximately half the trips are for employment purposes, meaning people are riding either to their jobs or to job training programs. Another heavy use demographic is seniors.

“A lot of the people that we service are on fixed or low incomes. If our fee box goes higher than $3, it really affects peoples’ ability to ride,” he said.

Although the fares are insufficient to cover the transit system’s operating costs, Hiett said each of the five counties served, as well as the city of Griffin, contribute funding that is in addition to federal subsidies. This has allowed the system to operate without losses to the affiliated governments.

“People complain about subsidies, but virtually all transportation is subsidized in some manner,” Hiett said. “We’re able to reach our budget. I haven’t had to go to any government to ask for more money. We develop a budget and try to make sure we do enough trips to cover it.”

Hiett welcomes the pending transit study and said if it determines an urbanized system is needed, the existing 5311 Rural Transit Service may eventually work in conjunction with it.

“I certainly want to do everything we can to coordinate with that effort,” he said. “If they’re able to establish urban transit in Griffin and Spalding County, we certainly want to work with that. We could feed into an urban system, perhaps at bus stops,” he said. “A lot of it’s theoretical because this is their first urban transit study.”

Dukes said the possibility exists that the current system could feed into an urban system, should the study determine it is actually necessary.

“It could tie into the current system by offering some set routes, but also allowing people to call in to request response,” he said. “One will be call in and one will have the potential to be fixed route,” he said. “It’s going to be customized to this community. It doesn’t have to be a grand system. It could be a basic north, south, east, west system. The study will determine the needs. You don’t want to put something in place if it’s going to be a financial drain on the city and county. We’re a growing community, though. I’m sure everyone would support some type of public transportation here in the community.” Ω



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: