Warner Robins to solicit public transit costs

chwright@macon.comMay 6, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Plans for Warner Robins public transportation inched forward Monday with council agreeing to officially ask companies how much the service would cost.

The council agreed to solicit bids at its precouncil meeting after Councilman Daron Lee implored them to make a good-faith effort toward public transportation. It’s a service no one disputes the city would lose money to do, but almost everyone is willing to entertain.

“My concern is getting (residents) the services where they need them to be,” Lee said. Transportation is “the thing that’s really hitting their pockets.”

Council began discussing an offer the Macon Transit Authority made in March to contract with Warner Robins to extend its services south. It already runs a route from Macon to Robins Air Force Base and was recently given permission to run routes within other city limits if requested.

Mayor Chuck Shaheen asked council members if they wanted to ask MTA for a trial service to collect more data, but some council members responded it was unnecessary.

“The data has been done,” said Councilman Mike Brashear.

Brashear pointed to the Warner Robins Area Transportation Study finished last year. It included routes needed in the city and to neighboring communities, costs of similarly sized transit systems and funding options.

“They should be able to go to MTA and tell them to give us a cost of this loop right here,” Brashear said.

But Mayor Chuck Shaheen said if MTA is given an opportunity to price a contract, others must be given a shot.

“If we go directly to Macon Transit Authority, it looks like we’re showing favoritism.”

Council agreed and asked Kim Demoonie, purchasing agent, to start the bidding process.

Rick Jones, MTA director, said he was excited to hear Warner Robins considering his offer. The authority will definitely bid on the project when it’s offered, he said.

“If they put an RFP (request for proposal) out, we probably won’t be the only ones (to respond),” Jones said. “There are national companies who provide those kinds of services, too.”

Councilman Mike Davis was the most reluctant to move too quickly. He said Monday’s talk was only the second time they’ve discussed the details of transit.

“To me, there’s so many more pieces to this,” he said. “I’m not going to commit to the community to lose money on a venture. We don’t have to make money, but we’ve got to not lose money.”

Public transportation systems are widely known to cost more to operate than the income fares produce. The WRATS found that to be true.

“The question is how much do you want to lose,” said Robert Sisa, community development director. “Fifty thousand? A hundred thousand? Two hundred thousand?”

But Alex Talley, a resident who has pressed council on public transit, said it’s not about the cost of the service.

“The city does not make money on every service it provides,” she said.

Talley said public transportation helps with quality of life, as much as recreation and public safety. She congratulated City Council’s decision Monday.

“There will be those who don’t want it, don’t need it and will never use it,” Talley said. “And we appreciate their point of view.”

Lee pleaded with council members to think outside of their own lives and work as hard as possible to try to make public transportation a reality.

“It’s amazing how we can find money and go overboard on certain projects,” he said.

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