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CRC takes delivery of Boro’s buses
Long-delayed transit system slated to roll in January
The shape of the buses has changed a little, since those delivered have room for one or two fewer passengers than the bus used in this mockup. But subject to minor changes, the color scheme and logo designed by Davis Marketing and approved by City Council remain basically the same for the buses expected to crisscross Statesboro beginning in January. (SPECIAL/City of Statesboro)

The Coastal Regional Commission took delivery last week of the four small buses the CRC will operate in Statesboro’s new city transit system. Next, some graphic wraps will be applied to convey information and make the city buses look different from the multi-county Coastal Regional Coaches.

But CRC Transportation Director Donald J. Masisak on Monday said his agency hopes to have the bus system in operation by early January, echoing a forecast last week by Statesboro City Manager Charles W. Penny. Meanwhile, a last-minute alarm that the City Council-approved graphic wrap would not be allowed by the Georgia Department of Transportation appears to have been overcome.

“We received the buses. They’re at our office in Savannah,” Masisak said. “We have to get some lettering on them, then we’ll transfer them on up to Statesboro, and they’ll get some more wrap on them, and then we’re getting ready to implement the transit system for Statesboro here very shortly.”

He noted that the CRC had been waiting more than a year for these buses to arrive. In fact, the city and the CRC have been working together on the preparations for well over two years, and the CRC first included buses for Statesboro in a larger planned order in late 2020.

Then the motor vehicle microchip shortage blamed on COVID-19 pandemic manufacturing and delivery disruptions initiated a long delay.

Even in simpler times, these buses, with built-in wheelchair lifts, would not be off-the-lot purchases. Several agencies and vendors were involved in the requirements and specifications for the new buses ordered through the Georgia DOT with federal assistance.


8+1 seating

As reported in June, the buses Statesboro is now getting, built by Starcraft Bus on Ford chassis, are a not quite as large as those first proposed, which would have had 10 standard passenger seats. Instead, these have eight standard seats, plus spaces for either one or two wheelchairs in back parallel to the side-opening chair lift.

Masisak referred to them as nine-passenger buses.

The CRC was able to end the delay in obtaining buses by being “fortunate enough to connect with some buses that were rejected in California,” he said.

He clarified that they were not rejected for defects.

This seat layout for the Starcraft Bus built on Ford chassis shows eight regular passenger seats plus room for up to two people in wheelchairs beside the lift. (SPECIAL/City of Statesboro)

“They’re fine,” Masisak said. “As a matter of fact, I drove one back from Atlanta, Tuesday, to Savannah, and they run nice.”

He and six other Coastal Regional Commission employees went to the Georgia DOT’s depot in Atlanta on Nov. 15 and drove buses back, he said. Four were for Statesboro’s new transit system. The rest were for replacements or additions within the Coastal Regional Coaches service, which the agency operates under contract with county governments, including Bulloch County’s.


Graphic concern

When Penny announced during the Nov. 15 City Council meeting that the CRC would soon be taking delivery of the buses, he also cautioned the mayor and council that the graphic wrap design they previously approved might not be allowed by the Georgia DOT.

The wrap designed by Davis Marketing Company to be applied to the buses by another local company, Action Signs, is predominantly blue, a color associated with the Statesboro High School Blue Devils, the Georgia Southern University Eagles and the Blue Mile of South Main Street.

Other elements of the design include the system name Statesboro Area Transit and an “SAT” logo crossed by a curving road. Penny noted that the color scheme is meant to make the buses highly visible and distinguish them from the white CRC buses.

As Masisak confirmed, the Georgia DOT’s concern was that the large graphic wrap would damage the paint of the buses, which are scheduled to be returned to the GDOT after three years or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first. The GDOT usually sells the used buses at auction and reportedly indicated that removing the wrap would be a city expense.

“Anything they put on has to come off when it’s turned back in to GDOT,” Masisak said.

Tuesday of last week, Penny and Statesboro Assistant City Manager Jason Boyles said the graphics might be reduced to little more than logos and lettering, leaving the white background showing. But in an email Thursday, Boyles said, “the graphics and colors, including whether we can wrap the entire bus or not,” had “not been finalized.”

Then Penny indicated Monday that the council-approved wrap is back on, with certain understood conditions.

“We plan to wrap the buses as approved by the City Council,” Penny wrote in an email. “When we return them to GDOT, they have to be white, so the wrap will have to be removed. The wrap will have to be removed with care, so as not to damage the paint. We need the buses to look different so everyone will know it is the Statesboro Area Transit when they see it.”

City Public Works and Engineering Director John Washington, also in an emailed reply, revealed when the buses are expected to arrive in Statesboro.

“Currently, the delivery date of the buses to the city is next week,” Washington wrote. “After that, the city's Fleet Division will perform a minor inspection for operation. After that, the vehicles will be sent to the sign company to place the wrap. There are (four) vehicles so that will take approximately (four) weeks. So the current anticipated roll-out date is January.”

City staff Civil Engineer Kiara Ahmed, who has been working directly with the CRC on preparations for the bus system, was away from City Hall on Monday. City Public Information Officer Layne Phillips said that a public information meeting about the bus service will probably be held in December, at a date yet to be announced.


Drivers and stops

As the CRC operates the bus system under contract for the city, the four full-time and four part-time drivers will be CRC employees. The agency has advertised for and is currently in the process of interviewing and evaluating drivers, who undergo mandatory drug and alcohol testing and a check of criminal and driving records.

Two sheltered bus stop benches were recently installed on South Main Street within the Blue Mile streetscape Phase 1 project.


T-SPLOST and grants

Discussions leading to creation of Statesboro’s transit service began five years ago. The first $450,000 for its development was earmarked from the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax when a majority of Bulloch County voters first authorized the 1% tax in 2018.

The T-SPLOST renewal approved by voters this Nov. 8 earmarked a further $3 million for the service. This funding can be used both to help cover the CRC contract and to buy equipment, including potentially larger buses, for the system’s growth, Penny has said.

But for startup, Federal Transit Administration grants obtained in cooperation with the CRC are by far the largest funding source for equipping and operating the service. Other than the previous feasibility study and things such as the bus stop shelters paid for by T-SPLOST, federal and state money is covering the first-year cost, city officials have said.

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