According to last year's numbers from the Macon Transit Authority, the revenue from even the busiest bus route totaled roughly one-ninth of what it cost to operate it.

The least used route runs through north Macon and costs roughly $425 to run each day, but brings in an average daily revenue of just $15.

President and CEO Craig Ross says bus ticket revenue makes up less than 20 percent of the overall budget, which means money from the Macon-Bibb and federal governments has to make up the rest.

Ross says, even though some buses have a lot of empty seats, many people still rely on the routes.

"A lot of people that don't understand public transportation think it's just money thrown out the window but it's not," says Ross. "It's getting people to work, and it's creating jobs."

That's why he says cutting down on the number of routes is not an option. In fact, Ross says he's hoping to add more routes.

One of them would include areas of south Macon to serve employees of Amazon's new distribution center, Kumho Tires, and others. Ross also hopes to expand the North Macon route to include new stops like Amerson River Park.

Ross hopes those changes will boost ridership as well as Macon's economy.

"For every dollar invested in public transportation, there is a $4 return on that investment," he says. "Everybody on that bus is going somewhere and they're going to spend money somewhere."

He admits that MTA needs to restructure some routes to make the most of that economic impact.

"If we're not picking up anybody, there's no need to go there. We'll be looking at routes where ridership is extremely low or does not exist," said Ross.

He's put in a request for a transportation firm to come in and help make those decisions, but Ross says there are many other changes on the horizon as well.

Over the next year, Ross says they'll get 18 new buses to replace part of their aging fleet. He says that should also help cut down on maintenance costs.

The MTA is also getting new computers and software to better manage documents and finances. Ross also says he hopes riders will soon be able to track their bus using a new phone app.

All of these changes cost money, which Ross admits the MTA doesn't have much of, but he says they're constantly looking for more efficient ways to use their budget and grants to supplement it.

Ross says the MTA may have to eventually raise ticket prices, but it's a decision he will not take lightly.

He says the last increase was roughly two decades ago, when prices went from $1 to the current rate of $1.25. He says ridership dropped drastically, which is something he wants to avoid.

Ross says the biggest challenge is convincing people that public transportation is not just for those without a car.

He says they're working on incentive programs to get more people to hop on a bus and give it a try.