Robert Kettles has been waiting and then riding buses in Augusta is whole life, he says it system that needs better service.
"Well basically, the wait is too long, the hours...they're not long enough, especially at night because people get off at different times," said Kettles, as he waited for the Washington Road bus at the City Transfer Center.
But, riders could see a different bus system. Officials with McDonald Transit, the company running the system, is proposing a three phase plan that would reduce wait times for riders, keep buses on the streets later, and add three south Augusta routes.
"I think everybody on the Commission wants to see an efficient and effective transit system, so this is just an opening step in going down the road," says Mayor Deke Copenhaver.
But, getting down the road has a cost. The plan to reduce the wait times for passengers carries with it a $580,000 price tag, but for riders like Kettles, that's a small price to pay. "It's kind of aggravating, so to speak, because if you miss one that's it," he said.
Keeping buses two hours on the street two hours later would cost $440,000, but riders say the buses are not running late enough now.
"Six to seven o'clock in the evening, that's no time," said Kettles.
But, it isn't time that's the concern for some Commisisoners, it's money. Combined, all three phases would cost more than $2.5 million. This would be in addition to the more than $3 million taxpayers already spend keeping the bus system operating.
"No, we can't afford that right now. Right now, we need to concentrate on balancing next year's budget, and we're looking at an $8.5 million shortfall. Right now, that's what I'm concerned with and then we can move forward with some other expenses if we find funding sources, which we don't have right now.," says Commissioner Mary Davis.
City Administrator Fred Russell met with McDonald Transit officials to discuss the plan and how to pay for it. At this point, Russell says funds to do the whole thing haven't been identified, though T-SPLOST money is one option. Russell says he'll be coming forward with a recommendation that would put parts of the proposal in place for bus riders.
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