After almost three years of studies and cost analysis, the commissioners and city officials of Liberty County agreed to implement a transit system last week.
The initial step is to establish a transit service and structure, which would include two routes running north and south along the Highway 84 corridor, LCPC Secretary Sonny Timmerman said at last week’s countywide planning meeting on St. Simons Island.
The route would connect Fort Stewart, Hinesville, Liberty Regional Medical Center, shopping Flemington, Brewton Parker and shopping areas. The fares would be $1 with free transfers, he said.
On Fort Stewart, the transit system would connect urban routes to serve Winn Army Community Hospital, family housing areas, PX, headquarters and barracks areas, he said.
In rural areas, Timmerman said officials will consider two options; a Regional Development Center plan based on responding to calls, or to simply expand the urban system into rural areas.
The RDC plan posed a problem to the commission, especially Chairman John McIver.
“We do not want to lose or have the funding cut for our human services system for elderly people,” McIver said. “If that’s a possibility, we will not support the RDC’s plan.”
Other concerns cropped up as well, while the officials discussed options for the system.
“We’re going to have to rethink how the potential routes would travel through Midway because a good number of my townspeople do not live right off US 84,” Midway Mayor Don Emmons said.
Since the system could be costly, funding is a complex issue because the amount of public use will help pay for the system.
Hinesville Mayor Tom Ratcliffe guessed 18,000 people would regularly use the transit system, cutting the cost to taxpayers. But Deputy Garrison Commander Paul Amdreshak was skeptical about the level of use.
“There is definitely a need for transit in the community, and our economic base would be expanded if we extend transportation,” Amdreshak said. “I just don’t know if 18,000 people is a feasible number.”
He also needs to run the plan by attorneys at Fort Stewart to see if the Army can get involved in public transportation. He hoped to get an answer by the end of this week.