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Man starting private bus company
bus 2
Douglas Burgess stands in front of the bus he's purchased for his Riding in Style bus system. - photo by Photo by Alena Parker.
The transit system may soon be available to everyone, regardless of where they live in Liberty County.
Douglas Burgess has announced his plan for Riding in Style, Inc., an on-call feeder system to pick up people outside the proposed routes of Liberty Transit and take them to the bus stops.
Set to roll out in November, public buses would only initially serve those in Hinesville, Flemington and Fort Stewart.
There are plans to expand to other municipalities, but Burgess is ready to see it now.
It’s not right for people to struggle with bags of food while walking from the grocery store to their apartments, according to Burgess.
“There’s no need for that,” said the Allenhurst city councilman.
He said there’s a whole group of residents grappling with a poor quality of life because of limited mobility.
Putting money — about $26,000 — where his mouth is, Burgess purchased a 31-passenger bus and an insurance policy.
The Georgia Public Service Commission approved a passenger permit and the secretary of state incorporated Riding in Style, Inc.
“When they said I need to do this and that and third, I did it,” Burgess said. “I got about $26,000 of my money and other people that help me invested.”
He estimates he would only need $10,000 more to take care of start-up costs, then he would be able to keep it going himself.
Burgess also wants to secure an agreement with the local government to be an independent service provider for Liberty Transit.
“I’m here to follow somebody else’s lead,” Burgess said. “Without pooling resources ... you wind up just spinning your wheels.”
However, the city’s hands are tied when it comes to forming a financial partnership, according to Mayor Jim Thomas.
“The funds we get are for that specific purpose,” Thomas said, explaining state and federal dollars are for city use only.
“It’s not that I would mind, but you have to follow the guidelines very specifically for those types of things.”
And Burgess said he understands those restrictions.
“We’re hoping that in the next wave of grant money, there’ll be some for independent providers and if there is, I’m going to have my bid in,” Burgess said.
“The best job we could do is the timing of the stops so that he could provide a feeder,” said Whitney Shephard of RS&H, the system’s transit consultant.
“We would have to explore and try to define its impact on the system ... and make sure the public system was not in violation of any of the federal [regulations] by providing preferential treatment,” Shephard said.
She expects the transit steering committee, which makes all the policy decisions, will be open to working with Burgess.
Affordable public transportation for everyone needs to happen, not just be talked about, said Burgess.
“If I’m going to live here, I want Liberty County to be the best that it can be,” Burgess said. “And we can achieve this by working together.”
Burgess said he figured he’d just throw his hat in the ring, hoping to make his community better.
“I’m hoping to see Liberty County work together to supply the transportation need for all Liberty County residents, whether Riding in Style or Liberty Transit or some other company,” Burgess said.
“Those of us who have been partisan have to become bi-partisan.”
Burgess operates Riding in Style, Inc. with his wife, Loretta.
For more information, call 570-1498.
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