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Stimulus money adds spark to bus plan
The old plan called for 14-passenger buses, but it has been upgraded to 20-passenger vehicles. - photo by Photo by Alena Parker.
Transit Liberty by the numbers

• Nine buses that cost $927,000 total
• Seven buses on the road at a time and two as spares
• Three routes
• 15 jobs created
• $200,000 allotted for public surveys of the system
• $650,000 local contribution to operating costs
Money from the American Recovery Reinvestment Act will fuel the long-awaited public bus routes in and around Hinesville.
And the city council learned Thursday that more stimulus money than first expected is putting the transit system on a fast track to a November debut.
Mayor Jim Thomas said he initially anticipated just over $800,000 in stimulus assistance. But Whitney Shephard with RS&H infrastructure and planning firm said at the meeting they now expect funds to reach more than $1.3 million, allowing for a much larger initial phase of the system that has been named Transit Liberty.
After two surveys, Shephard proposed a three-route system, consisting of nine 28-passenger buses, that covers about a three-quarter of a mile radius around the city. The buses, which are what the majority of the money will be used for, were upgraded from 14-passenger buses and an additional route was added to the first phase.
The firm has already conducted surveys and organized a proposal because the funds are coming with deadlines. She said all of the money must be spent within a year of March 5.
“We’re looking to purchase vehicles in July, and start the system in November of this year,” she said.
Thomas said the routes were determined based on population and commercial density. The routes include heavily frequented locations such as Fort Stewart, Wal-Mart, Liberty Regional Medical Center, the high schools, and other public venues.
“It will absolutely include in the first year Brewton-Parker, AASU [Liberty Campus], YMCA and restaurants,” Shephard said.
The mayor said the system will frequently add stops, hopefully including Savannah Tech’s Liberty campus and a few designated areas in Walthourville soon.
“Every year we’ll have an opportunity to expand the routes,” he said.
The funds will also cover associated costs such as shelters for stops, related equipment, short range planning and public surveys.
The city is still buying buses from Veolia Transportation, the supplier of choice before funding was held up by the financially unstable Georgia DOT.
The proposed hours of operation are Weekdays 6 a.m.-6 p.m., Fridays 6 a.m.-9:45 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m.-9:45 p.m. Shephard estimated that buses will arrive at the stops every 30-40 minutes.
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