The City of Statesboro is once again in a position to consider a bus transit proposal after concerns over funding were resolved.
Mayor Jonathan McCollar and council members heard from city employees Tuesday about alternative options to meet Statesboro’s transit needs alongside two representatives from the Coastal Regional Commission (CRC), the current recipient of the federal funds the City previous planned on utilizing to fund the transit plan.
The new plan deviates from the initial proposal which would have operated under the decisions outlined specifically by the City of Statesboro with regard to policies, schedules, and level of service. The fixed schedule was set to run Monday thru Friday from 6:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. with a downtown transfer station, a 60- minute round trip travel time per route, and 15-20 passenger buses. The plan was projected to cost $658,800 annually while bringing in $78,625 from fares that were set to average at $2 a trip.
But City Manager Charles Penny told city officials in November that the plan was halted after it was discovered that the money the city intended to use for the state and federal funding match was already being used by the Coastal Regional Commission to provide the on-demand services. In order to receive the funds currently allocated to the Commission, the Commission would have to voluntarily surrender those funds, Penny said.
Penny told council members that without the funding, the required 10% of the $811,000 proposal would be ‘almost impossible.’
A revision of the plan and a consideration by CRC to share a portion of the funds has bus transit under consideration again.
Now, city officials are looking at a flex plan of routes running from 6:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. Monday thru Friday at a fare of $1.00 using Ford E-350 shuttle buses equipped with a wheelchair lift that can accommodate 10 passengers and two wheelchairs.
Under this plan, the city would not be permitted to have any additional or ‘spare’ buses, per the funding rules, but the Coastal Regional Commission would be willing to provide a bus in the event of an outage, representatives told council members.
City employees presented budget numbers articulating that the city would be responsible for $21,420 in capital start up expenses in year one with a 10% state match of another $21,420, and $171,360 from the 5311 money of CRC for a year one total of $214,200. An additional $161,000 would be required to pay for 50% of the operating expenses on an annual basis, with the other $161,100 coming from Federal Section 5311 funds, the presentation showed. But CRC employees said that those were not numbers CRC provided to the city, so numbers could shift slightly.
Ideally, the buses would be operational by July 2021.
Councilwoman Venus Mack, who is new to the council, voiced her concerns about whether or not the plan would meet the needs of the community.
Councilman Phil Boyum said he liked the idea because this plan would ultimately be cheaper by working with CRC and that he’d rather have buses that are too full instead of buses that are empty. He said the plan will also allow the city to go outside the city limits and expand the service area.