Macon Transit Authority park and ride in the works for Warner Robins

chwright@macon.comNovember 24, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- A new Macon Transit Authority park and ride program could soon open in Warner Robins, effectively beginning a relationship between the city and the public transportation agency just north.

City Council members agreed this week that they wanted a contract detailing the use of Alex Ferguson Park on Elberta Road as a stop for the existing Buses into Robins Daily line that takes Macon workers to Robins Air Force Base and then back to Macon.

“I don’t think there’s going to be an issue with it, but we need that (contract) done,” Councilwoman Carolyn Robbins said.

Rick Jones, general manager of Macon Transit Authority, said MTA and the city of Warner Robins have discussed the park and ride for a while.

The idea is to expand the BiRD route and eventually allow one bus to circle the base continuously.

“It will also give people an opportunity in Warner Robins,” Jones said. “If they work for Geico, they can come here and park and get a ride up to Macon.”

The new route would allow Warner Robins residents who work in Macon to park at Ferguson Park and catch a bus to MTA’s terminal station. From there, it’s just one more bus ride to their job.

Those residents have been allowed to hop on at Elberta Road and Ga. 247, where the driver also lets off Maconites who aren’t going to the base. Jones said the park and ride will create an official stop.

The fare is $3 for each bus ride.

Also, Warner Robins residents who work at Robins and don’t want to battle parking constraints could park at Ferguson and ride to Robins, where a BiRD bus circles the entire base.

James Dodson, the recreation director, said the park and ride won’t affect activities at Ferguson Park. Thirty spaces will be designated for MTA riders during the day and should be available for other uses by 6:30 p.m.

With thousands of employees working on base and thousands more working for Geico in Macon, it’s likely those 30 spots could quickly be outgrown.

“If we get to that point, we’ll probably have to look at another location,” Dodson said. “This is just a starting point.”

Dodson and Jones said most logistics have been worked out for the park and ride. It just needs to be put in writing. Still, both parties have to approve the memorandum of understanding.

“I wouldn’t anticipate anything being in place by the end of the year,” Dodson said.

Once arranged, the collaboration could be the beginning of an MTA/Warner Robins relationship pitched this year.

Jones has told council his agency can provide bus routes throughout the city, allowing Warner Robins to save on the administrative and equipment costs associated with starting a public transit system from scratch.

City officials have had mixed reactions to the idea of starting a public transit system because it’s widely known transit systems do not break even, and taxpayers -- whether on the federal or local level -- are left footing the bill.

Nonetheless, Jones is hopeful the park and ride is a good step toward a bigger collaboration.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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