If you have an opinion on Hinesville’s Liberty Transit bus system, now is the time to express it. City officials and the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission are accepting public comment on proposed changes to existing bus routes through Aug. 8.
Information on the recommended service changes is available at the Liberty Transit station, Hinesville City Hall, Flemington City Hall, the Liberty County branch of Live Oak Public Library on Memorial Drive and the LCPC office at 205 E. Court St. in Hinesville. For information or to submit comments online, go to www.libertytransit.org and click on the news tab.
A public hearing on the system will be from 4-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3, at the Liberty County Courthouse Annex.
The Hinesville City Council will have a workshop on proposed route changes at 2 p.m. Thursday in the municipal courtroom.
The system, which began operating in October, runs three bus routes through Hinesville, Flemington and Fort Stewart. Bus stops are in downtown Hinesville, Liberty Regional Medical Center, Winn Army Community Hospital, the library, the post office on Highway 84, Walmart, housing and commercial areas on Fort Stewart, hotels and restaurants along Highway 84, DFCS and the Liberty County Health Department, Armstrong Atlantic State University’s Liberty Campus and the YMCA.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said last week during a regular council meeting that another stop could be added at the temporary VA clinic on Gen. Stewart Way, which opened July 5.
The changes were recommended after city employees, Veolia Transportation and LCPC staffers working on behalf of the transit steering committee conducted a data analysis of existing routes, according to LCPC transportation and land-use planner Rachel Hatcher. The committee, which includes Thomas, Flemington Mayor Sandra Martin, Liberty County Board of Commissioners Chairman John McIver and a Fort Stewart representative, oversees the bus system.
Hatcher said the sampling was conducted while riding Liberty Transit buses for 16 hours during a three-day period in mid-June.
“The intent behind the data collection was to get raw data, but as part of that process, when someone sees you with a clipboard, they want to share what works and what doesn’t,” said Hatcher, who added that the survey team gleaned additional information from Liberty Transit riders. She said most of the riders they spoke to like that the routes “hit shopping and housing areas.”
“Some of them feel (the bus system) doesn’t go far enough and want it to expand,” Hatcher said. She said once this survey is finished, changes to existing routes will be made and bus passenger shelters will be placed at stops used most often by riders. The LCPC planner said a future survey may be undertaken, if grant funding is received, to study the feasibility of expanding the bus system.
Hatcher said bus ridership gradually has risen, especially in the past three months. The ridership count as of June was 2,296 trips.
“One trip is a person getting on the bus,” she explained. In May, the ridership count was 2,053, and in April it was 1,878, according to Hatcher.
“We expected the first year to be a strong education process,” she said. “Liberty County never had public transit before.”
Hatcher said it takes time for people to use a public transit system.
“It’s our job to make it more convenient for them, so more people will use it,” she said.
“We’ve gotten some ridership increases but we really need more,” he said. “Having said that, no (public transit) system pays for itself. We’re studying where people are and what we can do to improve (ridership).”