Coastal Georgia’s regional rural transit plan has been temporarily put on hold.
The Regional Development Center proposed the new plan this year for all the coastal counties, including Bryan.
The plan had originally been set to start July 1, but this week, the RDC sent out information saying the program would have to be pushed back, County Administrator Phil Jones said.
"In Bryan County, we already have a local transportation program," Jones said. "That will continue running the same way it has been. We will continue being paid by the Department of Transportation until the new regional plan is implemented. As of right now, nothing has changed."
RDC Coordinated Transportation Manager Barbara Hurst said because the program is new, they are still learning about the implementation process.
"The more we learn about this now, the better we can make the plan once it starts," Hurst said, noting they now hope to kick the program off in November. "I went to a training program last week and found out (there are some federal transit program requirements) that must be approved before the regional plan can start. The combination of meeting some of those requirements and waiting to get all the coastal counties’ resolutions signed into the plan has caused the delay."
The plan is expected to make regional transportation more accessible to all residents in the coastal counties and should decrease how much Bryan County pays for a transit program.
Hurst said she spoke with the DOT this week and they are continuing to process the plan’s application.
"I was anxious and ambitious and I was hoping everything would sail right through," she said. "As soon as we meet the federal requirements, everything can start up."
Hurst said the RDC’s additional plans for a regional van pool system, which would provide inexpensive transportation of groups of employees to work, will hopefully start soon.
"I’m still working to get that started as quickly as possible," she said, noting it should be a good sized program from the start. "Employers are very anxious about this, because they’re having a problem keeping their employees because employees are having trouble affording their commutes with gas prices rising."
Hurst said between these two programs, there will be many "good options for residents."
"We really expect public transit to really take off with this," she said. "This is a work in progress and it will continue to be a process. We’ll have to grow the program, but I don’t think that’ll be a problem; all the counties have been very amenable to helping their residents."
Hurst said the RDC has seen metro areas growing their transit programs as well this year, because ridership has steadily been increasing in response to gas prices.
"With the price of gas, it’s cheaper to take public transportation and with more people using it, that can make it cheaper to offer," she said. "And it cuts down on the wear and tear of roads, cuts down on carbon monoxide output and helps the environment."