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Bus ride into the future?
Officials hope to start routes by December
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It has been long awaited, but plans are still rolling for public transportation in Hinesville.
City Manager Billy Edwards briefed councilmembers during the bi-monthly Hinesville City Council meeting June 19 on the developments of a Hinesville-Flemington-Fort Stewart transit.
He said this week a technical review team has been looking at proposals in choosing what private transit management firm to contract with.
“Our goal is to have the (transit system) operational by Dec. 1,” Edwards said. “The city is the lead entity in this...and also the primary entity responsible for operating the system.”
Mayor Jim Thomas said during the meeting that the 21-page operation plan drafted last month with the Liberty County Planning Commission is still a “work in progress,” and “nothing is locked in stone.”
“What we’re trying to do is provide service to the city and get people where they need to be,” Thomas said.
The draft operations plan currently includes four strategic routes, but only within Hinesville, Flemington and Fort Stewart.
Though a public transportation system will prove to be a beneficial service for visitors and residents of Hinesville and Flemington, the routes were designed to specifically serve military personnel and their families.
“Routes and schedule were developed in order to accommodate soldiers returning from Iraq in the summer and fall of 2008,” according to the plan draft.
Suggested routes include a shuttle route on Fort Stewart with stops at Winn Army Community Hospital, the Army Education Center and downtown Hinesville.
Other routes will be divided between north and south Hinesville, with destinations and pick-ups at Wal-Mart, the academic Liberty Center and Liberty Regional Medical Center.
The city is still waiting for approval for state and federal grants requested in December, but hopes to start buying the buses in September.
Four 20-passenger buses, running on gasoline, will be bought with part of the funds.
So far, fare will be between 50 cents and $1. Passengers 5 and younger may not be charged and senior citizens, starting at age 62, may get a discounted rate.
Proposed run times for the new bus system start as early as 5:45 a.m. and will continue to run through 1 a.m., depending on the route and day of the week. Under the current draft, buses will not operate on Sundays.
In addition to a private contractor, the new bus system will also open a city transit coordinator position. A contractor is expected to be selected by August.  
Beginning from execution in December, the transit system project will be divided in phases, with the first phase lasting a year.
“During that year we will be continuing to monitor how effective and how efficient the routes are serving the public,” Edwards said.
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