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City bus system for Statesboro?
Council to delve into transit study results Tuesday
City of Statesboro seal

Connetics Transportation Group has completed its feasibility study for a possible public transit system in Statesboro and is scheduled to present the results to City Council in an open, special session at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or T-SPLOST, referendum approved by a majority of Bulloch County voters in May 2018 earmarked $450,000 to start a public transit program in Statesboro.

City Council in September contracted CTG, which has an office in Atlanta, to do the study for $68,793. The final report is about 110 pages long, or 190 pages if appendences of details such as survey and interview results are included. Beginning with data showing rapid population and employment growth, the report’s executive summary projects further growth for Statesboro and describes it as having already a “large transportation disadvantaged population,” including students, seniors, low-wage working people and people with disabilities.

With color-coded route maps, the report suggests multiple options for a fixed-route or flexible-route bus-type system. A “demand response” service, which would use small buses or vans dispatched to locations as needed, was also considered.

“At the end of the day we want to make sure that the city is covered as adequately as possible, but again I think what people have to recognize is that this is just the beginning,” Mayor Jonathan McCollar said Friday.

 

Estimated costs

He mentioned a range of possible costs for starting a public transit service from a low of about $600,000 to a high of over $1.5 million.

A chart in the report shows both an estimated capital cost for equipment and an estimated annual operating cost for each of four suggested “final alternatives.” Adding these costs together suggests a first-year cost of $632,200 for the least expensive, “demand response” system, but it is also projected to have the lowest ridership.

On the high end, the two fixed-route plans with the greatest projected ridership each have estimated costs adding up to about $1.38 million for capital equipment and first-year operation. The fourth “final” option is a flex-route plan with estimated costs of equipment and one-year operations totaling a little over $1 million.

In each case, revenue from fares paid by riders would be part of the equation. The cost of the study should leave the city about $380,000 from the five-year T-SPLOST earmark for further startup costs. But the report’s implementation section suggests other possible funding sources, including federal and state grants.

 

Peer comparisons

CTG looked at three other university cities of similar size to Statesboro – Carrolton, Georgia; Richmond, Kentucky; and Clemson, South Carolina – as “peer cities” for comparisons to their transportation needs and how these are met. Meanwhile, eight existing “peer agency” transit services within Georgia, from the busy Athens and Columbus systems to the much smaller Liberty Transit in and around Hinesville and Cherokee County’s system near Atlanta, were tapped for information on ridership and fares.

Tuesday morning’s meeting in the council chambers at City Hall was announced as a work session, with no motions predicted on the agenda. The whole purpose is to review the information from the study, McCollar said.

“It’s extremely comprehensive, so hopefully when we get there it’s going to spark a little conversation in and around us trying to figure out what’s going to be the next step,” he said.

The $450,000 earmarked from T-SPLOST for Statesboro public transit is a portion of the $20.64 million to $25.8 million the city is projected to receive over five years. That share is in turn part of the $48 million to $60 million in T-SPLOST revenue to be divided by population among Bulloch County and its four municipalities.

The county has a matching $450,000 earmark for the airport, but the remaining millions are designated broadly for road, street, bridge, sidewalk, bike and walking trail projects and road maintenance equipment.

 

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.