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'It should be a top priority': Houston County man advocates for public transportation in Warner Robins

Armando Vias was born prematurely, leaving him blind. He often finds himself relying on others to get around town, because Warner Robins does not have a public bus.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — A Houston County man wants access to public transportation in Warner Robins.

For most people, getting around Warner Robins is easy, but for people who are visually-impaired, it can be a challenge. That's because the City of Warner Robins does not have public transportation.

If there is one thing true about Warner Robins, you'll always find cars on the road, but city-run bus stops are nowhere to be found.

"Some people do not have driver's licenses or can't drive at all," Armando Vias said.

21-year-old Vias lives in Byron. He was born prematurely, leaving him blind.

"I feel like in Houston County, I am the only blind advocate here," Vias said.

He says he often finds himself relying on others to get around town because Warner Robins does not have public transportation. That’s according to the City of Warner Robins Transportation Planner Jessica Bird. Vias says it's frustrating.  

"For example, how am I going to get to work? Because Lyft and Uber and all those taxi services are very expensive right now due to inflation," Vias said.

So Vias is asking mayor and council to help him. Mayor LaRhonda Patrick wants public transportation in "Warner Robins and in the surrounding areas."

"I campaigned on the need for transportation. Everybody knows what our economy is like right now -- the inflation, the struggle families are experiencing on a regular, everyday basis and with the inflated gas prices -- and so the best way to resolve that would be having an option for transportation," Patrick said.

Vias also says he wishes the city had safer sidewalks and more government buildings with access to Aira, a visual interpreting device used to help people read documents, etc.

"We need this transportation service. My goal in the city is to make it accessible, not only the citizen can enjoy the city with inclusion in mind and disability in mind, but I also want tourists welcomed here who are also disabled," Vias said.

Vias hopes colleges, restaurants, and businesses adopt more visual impairment practices over time. His goal is to one day live alone, but he says he needs the city's help in doing that.

Mayor Patrick also said, "I want to make sure that our city is accessible to everyone, no matter if they have physical challenges or a mental challenge or just regular everyday people. Our people deserve a mayor who listens to their voices and knowing that they are not overlooked. I know the City of Warner Robins has a long way to go, but I am committed to making life easier for the residents with disabilities or any type of challenge, so in the future, there will be more on this conversation when it comes to making sure our city is accessible for everyone."

"The reason why I want to advocate is I want people to know I care about them. I care about the City of Warner Robins. I know the city has room for growth and improvements to public transportation and accessible sidewalks, street crossing, and bus stops. It should be a top priority," Vias said.

People in Warner Robins do have access to a private business called Warner Robins Transit. They are not owned by the city, but they do provide "on-demand" and "para-transit" services with reservations made 48 hours in advance. That's according to the owner of Warner Robins Transit, Spring Rosati.

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