WARNER ROBINS -- A study is expected to begin soon that will look at the options for starting a public transit system in Warner Robins and possibly even the surrounding area.
The city of Warner Robins planned to hold a conference Thursday morning with potential bidders to perform the study. City Council is expected to select a company to do the study at a meeting in January.
Although the cost of the study won’t be known until the bids come in, it will be paid for with a $100,000 grant. The federal government is paying for 80 percent of the grant, the state is paying 10 percent, and the remaining 10 percent is being shared by Warner Robins, Houston County, Perry, Byron, Centerville and Peach County.
All are part of the Warner Robins Area Transportation Study, which is federally required to take a regional look at transportation issues, said Jessica Bird, transportation planner for Warner Robins. While the city is conducting the public transit study, it is actually a joint project of the participating governments, Bird said.
The study would examine, among other things, the costs of the various options and the potential ridership. It is expected to be completed by October. The participating governments would then look at the results, the expected costs, and determine whether to participate in a public transit system.
Carolyn Robbins, who will be sworn in as a new Warner Robins council member Thursday afternoon, spoke in support of a public transit study during her campaign.
“The inner city needs some kind of transportation, I think,” she said. “The city has grown so much, and we are spread out so far that I think it’s time we start looking at transportation.”
The city conducted a similar study in 2003 and ultimately decided against starting a transit system, mainly due to the cost. However, Bird said since then things have changed, and there may be more demand. More riders would help offset the subsidy that would be needed to operate the system.
The options for public transit are numerous. It could range from a regional bus system with regular routes to a “demand response” system that would be similar to a taxicab service, Bird said.
A demand response service could be done in cooperation with existing taxi services by subsidizing cab fare, Bird said.
If the other governments choose not to participate, Warner Robins could do something on its own. That could include, rather than regular bus routes around the city, having limited routes that would mainly take people to and from Robins Air Force Base.
While riders would pay a fee, a government subsidy would be needed to fund a public transit system, Bird said.
Bird said the benefit to the taxpayer is that public transit would reduce traffic and pollution, which would help meet federally mandated air quality attainment goals. It would also benefit the base, which has been working to reduce the amount of traffic on base and free up more parking spaces, Bird said.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.