The Liberty Transit System will begin operating under the first level of modified services beginning Nov. 16, according to Rachel Hatcher, planning director for the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission.
Hatcher said services will be reduced significantly in coming months with changes for routes, service hours and stop locations. She said “more refined information” will be provided in the weeks to come, but the details about overall service reductions will be concluded by Dec. 31.
She said services immediately affected will be all Friday evening routes, which will end by 6:15 p.m. Services used to continue through 9 p.m. on Route 2, she said. Also, there no longer will be Saturday services, she said.
Hatcher noted that ridership on various routes shows a pattern of peak periods, including 6-8 a.m., the lunch hour and 3-4 p.m. These hours appear to her to represent commuters using the transit system during work hours. Ridership decreases after 4 p.m., she said.
“Due to Hinesville’s budget cuts, there will be a much smaller transit system when it redeploys after the first of the year,” Hatcher said. “And though the routes served will see less frequency, there will be greater service areas.”
Hatcher said there will be a public workshop from 2:30-5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, in the lobby at city hall. She said public feedback is critical to ensuring the new, reduced services still meet local residents’ transportation needs.
“We’re not really sure about the routes for the new service areas,” she said, noting the key decision makers in the service modifications include the Hinesville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Transit Steering Committee and the city of Hinesville. “We’ve identified the need for services to Savannah Tech, Walthourville, Shaw Road and South Main Street.”
Hatcher said the $1-per-trip fee paid by riders will not change, and most of the new sheltered bus stops likely will remain part of any new routes. She said these stops previously were identified as having the highest usage.
She said routes with the highest ridership include those onto Fort Stewart, with stops at the Post Exchange, commissary and Winn Army Community Hospital.
She admitted that the reduction in services likely will result in a reduction in the number of bus drivers because fewer buses will be needed each day. She said maintenance schedules will allow more down time for buses due to the accessibility of other buses. The Liberty Transit System includes eight 30-foot buses and one 24-foot bus, Hatcher said.
“We’re going to change everything about the services,” she said. “Origins and destinations may stay the same, but how the buses get there will be different. So far, riders have been very quiet (about service reductions). We invite them to come by for the workshop because we want their feedback.”
Hatcher said what public feedback she has gotten about the changes has been both positive and negative. Anyone wanting more information can come by the workshop or call Hatcher at 408-2036 by Nov. 15.
After that date, she said, her office will finalize details for the changes and plan implementation of those changes.