GA: Augusta Transit Committee Convenes for First Time, Expresses Hopes

Aug. 29--Enthusiastic members of the first Augusta Public Transit Citizens' Advisory Committee expressed hopes for the beleaguered service and elected officers at a first full meeting Thursday.

The nine-route bus system and paratransit service has endured funding cuts, seen management change twice and been the subject of much debate since city commissioners voted three years ago to seek private management for it.

The committee meeting was delayed by the lack of a quorum of appointees by the commission and the legislative delegation, and several slots -- from commission districts 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 -- remained vacant Thursday.

Committee members elected Terence Dicks, former chairman of the city Human Relations Commission, as chairman. Former mayoral candidate Charles Cummings, who ran on a platform to improve transit, was elected vice chairman. Sharon Dottery, as transit liaison between the city and bus manager McDonald Transit, serves as committee secretary.

After the appointments, members expressed their hopes for the committee. Jonathan Areves cited his business partner's visual impairment and his hope to be a part of "making public transit of higher quality ... so the public wants to use it." He said he wanted to analyze data about transit performance over the last few years, including missed and late stops and work toward getting "the city to reengage with public transit."

Cummings stressed the importance of transit funding, then noted the department is possibly being stiffed by the city on transportation and tourism fund fees charged hotel guests that generate as much as "$140,000 a month."

Kwang-Il Tae voiced the system's biggest complaint, its lack of early-morning and late-night hours and routes serving all areas.

Dicks spoke the most, about changes needed in the system serving Georgia's second-largest city.

"Our city has wheels, and this department is the city's wheels, and this is what is going to move the city forward," said Dicks. Residents, he said were going to pay taxes regardless, so they "might as well be for something you want," through the committee's "making the best and strongest recommendations possible" to the commission.

Member Willie Jones, who is visually impaired and works at Walton Options, said transit is key for people such as himself.

"It is very important for people with disabilities to get out and try to be employed, and transportation is a key issue," Jones said.

Other commmittee appointees include former commission candidate Denise Traina, Betty Reece and William Quinn.

Copyright 2014 - The Augusta Chronicle, Ga.