After years of waiting, many people were excited to have the first Warner Robins Transit bus launch almost a year and a half ago.
However, the buses may have to pump the brakes if they do not receive a state grant.
“You get to know your regulars,” says Constance Harris, one of four bus drivers.
She’s watched as they’ve gone from about ten riders per week to an average of 40 per day.
“A lot of people depend on it,” she says, with the majority of riders being senior citizens or Central Georgia Tech students.
Warner Robins Transit launched in December of 2015, and now they have a new route, three more drivers and a dozen new stops.
“I guess you could say I'm a typical rider,” says Elliott Nicholson. “I usually catch the bus a couple of times a week.”
Nicholson does not have a car, so he says the Transit is a big help, but there's room for improvement.
“Where you can get a ride once every 20, 30 minutes, instead of 3 or 4 hours,” he suggests.
Sheryl Frazier, Executive Director of the Warner Robins Housing Authority, which runs the Transit, says they would like to be able to do that by adding more buses. That was their plan until they hit a speed bump.
“Now, our system has changed,” she says.
Frazier says the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced last summer that they would be moving from an asset management system to a public housing system. Before, the transit was paid for with deregulated funds, which is money left over after housing projects the to use toward other work. In the case of the Warner Robins Housing Authority, they used the funds for transportation.
However, after the new system takes effect in 2018, those funds will no longer be available to use.
“We are working with the city to get funding from the state so we can have a full blown transportation system ,” Frazier explains.
Right now, the cost to run the transit is about $120,000. $85,000 is from the City of Warner Robins, and the rest is from the Housing Authority. That money covers the cost to rent two buses, the salaries of four part-time drivers, and insurance. Gas money is covered by a separate Community Development Block Grant.
“It impacts more than just low income. It impacts our growth here in Warner Robins,” Frazier explains. “When we are looking to move people away from programs, like housing and welfare systems, they have to be able to get to school. They have to be able to get to jobs.”
Frazier is hopeful the new state grant they applied for will allow them to rent additional buses. That would mean they could reach more parts of the city and have buses run more frequently, which they believe will lead to more passengers.
The Housing Authority says they are not sure when they will hear back about the grant, but know it will be sometime this year.
The fare for bus rides is $1.50 for a one-way ride. There’s also a special rate of $1.00 available to seniors on Tuesdays and students on Thursdays.
For the list of stops and schedule, click here.
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