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Transit system on way in Liberty
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Within two weeks, area residents will be able to call on a public bus to come to their house and take them anywhere within Coastal Georgia for a minimal fee, or anywhere inside the county for $3.
The $2 million Coastal Regional Coaches is being implemented now in Liberty as well as the nine other Georgia counties, from Screven to Camden, by the Coastal Regional Commission of Georgia. Formerly known as the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center, the group began planning for the program in 2005 and recently received funding.
“We’re very excited about the implementation of this program, which should prove to be a huge asset to the residents of Coastal Georgia, especially those that are elderly or in low-income households,” said Barbara Hurst with the CRC. “The time is right for this program with so many people being laid off and not having enough money for fuel and insurance.”
She said a study showed only 60 percent of area residents’ transit needs were being met in the area.
Hurst said everything is just about in place and targets “mid-August” to launch the program. This entails 60 vans and buses being contracted for use. Five transportation contractors across the region have been hired to provide the drivers and schedule trips in their areas. TF&S Transportation is Liberty County’s provider.
Here’s how it will work:
• Riders must call at least 24 hours in advance to schedule a pick-up. The toll free number is (866) 543-6744.
• Coastal Regional Coaches will pick you up at your residence and deliver you directly to wherever you want to go within Coastal Georgia.
• The service is available to anyone who lives or works in Coastal Georgia and can be for any purpose.
• Cost is $3 for one-way or $6 for round trip within a county. If travelling outside the county, a $3 charge is added for each county line that is crossed.
• The service is to be available Monday through Friday, 6 a.m.-6 p.m.
Although not widely known, the region has had a public transit system for years. The differences with the new system are that travel outside the county was limited and trips were primarily for medical and social service appointments. More vehicles will also be used in the new system.
If all goes well, Hurst expects 30 more vehicles to be added to the Coastal Regional Coaches fleet. She also said service could be expanded to weekends.
“This program is a work in progress,” Hurst said. “We’re going to get started and see what the need is
and then look at making changes. This is our starting point. The riders and the cities and counties are the stakeholders in this and we look forward to hearing from them on how we should grow.”
Hurst said other ideas being tossed around to improve the program include smart cards, internet compatibility and a full-scale dispatch center. Now the central number will prompt callers to enter a location code and the call will be forwarded to that area’s provider.
She said the new program is not designed for commuting to work because it is door-to-door and exact times cannot be assured daily. A different program, however, is on the horizon that targets the work force. A regional van pool program is in the works that will essentially provide a van and state-federal funds for operating costs to a group of five to 15 employees willing to commute together.
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