It could soon get easier to ride a bus in Macon. Here’s why

Taking a bus in Macon might become easier with the release of new plastic bus passes and a mobile app.

The Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority is soon releasing new smart cards for bus passes and an app that will track bus routes, Craig Ross, president and CEO of the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority, announced Tuesday.

The plastic cards will replace the paper bus passes that Ross said litter the floor of the transit center. He said the paper passes wouldn’t work if the black strip was bent.

“Those have just not been a good purchase for us,” Ross said. “These plastic cards, they’ll be able to put into their billfolds or their purses, and they’ll be able to reload them down at the Transfer Center.”

The card will allow customers to get either a four-day, 10-day, 20-day or 30-day pass and upload it as many times as they need.

“It’s about time!” said Dane Adams, a bus rider at Terminal Station on Wednesday.

Adams said he likes the plastic cards that the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) uses because they are easy, and he said a similar system in Macon will be nice. On average, 2,470 people ride the bus each day, according to the Macon Transit Authority.

Ross said the cards, which will be released in the next 60 days, are free initially. If the card is lost, there will be a $5 charge for an additional card.

The transit authority paid 10 percent of the $218,600 cost of the smart card system, including new fare boxes. Federal and state dollars covered the remainder.

Ross said the hope is customers eventually will be able to reload the smart cards on a new mobile app.

The new app, called RouteShout, will be released around January, Ross said. A company called RouteMatch will come to Macon on Nov. 12, and after it spends about seven weeks setting up the app, the transit authority will take a few months to test it.

Stephanie George, who rides the bus almost daily, doesn’t have a smart phone.

“I think it’s a good idea, though, for people who got one,” George said of the mobile app.

Also, the Macon Transit Authority will 17 new buses to the fleet by late spring 2019. Ross said the authority plans to extend the Ocmulgee route and rearrange the North Macon route to have a stop at the Shoppes at River Crossing.

Of those 17 buses, seven New Flyer buses cost over $3 million. Most of the funds came from the federal and state transportation agencies, and the Macon Transit Authority paid $302,127, according to a report from the transit authority.

In addition, Ross said the transit authority will begin construction by the end of November on two charging stations for two electric buses coming in the spring.

The authority will add 11 lights to bus shelters downtown through a $14,200 grant from the Community Foundation of Central Georgia’s Downtown Grant Challenge, and security cameras will be added in the Transfer Center and Terminal Station.

“We at the Macon Transit Authority recognize and accept our key role to provide high quality and dependable and affordable services to all of our citizens and visitors of our community,” said Louis Frank Tompkins, chairman of transit authority’s board of directors. “We do keep Macon moving.”