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Regional medical transit system in works

POSTED: May 13, 2009 10:58 a.m.
Local resident Shvonna Hearn is pushing for public transit to serve the county’s most needy.
“I think that’s what upsets the public the most — times are hard,” Hearn said.
She owns the local TS&F Support, Inc., which provides non-emergency medical transport for Medicaid patients.
“But those who really need it are unable to get it,” Hearn said.
For many patients who are receiving daily dialysis, cancer treatments and other procedures, an uncertain economy and rising gas prices have thwarted their ability get to appointments.
“People really need a source of transportation,” Hearn said. “Not all of them are eligible for what they need.”
“With public transit, there’s no eligibility criteria, so they could use it as many times as they want to,” said Barbara Hurst, coordinated transportation manager with the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center.
Regional planners first started working on a public transit plan in 2005.
“We would hear from so many people that just Human Services transportation alone was not meeting the need and we needed to come up with some other transportation to help offset that need,” Hurst said.
Liberty is one of three pilot counties to participate in a regional rural public transit.
For $3, the on-demand service will take residents anywhere in the county, as long as they make reservations 24 hours in advance.
Nearly $2 million for the project has been approved by the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration would put up to 90 vehicles in eight counties in the coastal region.
Local governments would cover a 10 percent match in operating costs based on population — about $26,000 for Liberty County.
Last year, operating costs were calculated at $2.3 million.
Coastal Georgia RDC will buy the buses, computers and the rest of the capital costs.
“We’re hoping to have this program started up some time next month,” Hurst said.
Contracts, the only thing the program lacks, are still up in the air.
“They could be coming in anytime,” Hurst said.
RDC submitted the contracts last year, according to Hurst.
 “Because this is a considerably large project, it took a little bit of time,” Hearn said, citing design, statistics and hold-ups in state budgets.
Hinesville is taking the lead in bringing a transit system to Hinesville, Flemington and Fort Stewart. Buses will start running in November.
Until regional and local governments launch their service, Hearn will continue her service.
“I’m thankful the transit system is coming in here,” Hearn said. “That’ll help a lot people go where they need to go.”
Transportation is mostly to medical facilities and Hearn said passenger volume sometimes depends on the season, but it fluctuates every day.
“We never know when Ms. Jones is going to fall in the nursing home,” Hearn said.
TS&F Support also runs in Bulloch and Chatham counties.
 “I’m just glad we’re here, that’s all,” Hearn said.
 

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