VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) – A south Georgia city has approved plans for an on-call transit system, nearly two decades after it became eligible for federal transit funding.
The Valdosta City Council voted 7-0 Thursday to approve a contract with Via Transportation for a transit system to launch April 27, running weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The Valdosta Daily times reports that Via will operate vehicles smaller than traditional buses and won’t run on fixed routes. Instead, customers will call for rides by phone or smartphone app.
Mayor Scott Jameson said he supports the “microtransit” system, saying traditional buses are a “burden.”
“With an on-demand system, it’s more like a taxi; you only use the equipment if people order a trip,” said Corey Hull, transportation and environmental director for the Southern Georgia Regional Commission.
The men said more vehicles and drivers can be added at peak times and that larger vehicles could be leased if needed.
Valdosta has received and returned federal transit money every years since 2003, Hull said. The question of whether the city should operate a transit system has long featured in city politics, with opponents saying it’s too costly and that there’s not enough demand.
The city says the Federal Transit Administration will fund 80% of expected costs for Valdosta’s system, allocating $1.1 million. The city says it will try to pay for part of its share through advertising, additional grants, and service agreements.
“I don’t know of any public transportation system in the U.S. that pays for itself,” he said. Most of the systems depend on some form of federal or state subsidies, he said.
As for the claim that “everybody had a car,” Hull said a study done two years ago found portions of the city where more than a quarter of the adults had no vehicle.
Hull said a 2016 pilot involving a shuttle bus on fixed routes showed demand for transit in Valdosta.
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