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Hville starting up transit system
In September, eight Liberty Transit buses will serve passengers throughout Liberty County. - photo by Photo provided.
It’s time to make the wheels on the bus go round and round. Starting in September, eight public buses will serve Liberty County.
The county must have a minimum of seven buses to start the transit system, and one spare, said Rachel Hatcher, transportation and land use planner for Hinesville.
Another smaller vehicle will be designated to pick up passengers with disabilities who cannot make it to regular stops.
The announcement for when buses will start running may come Sept. 8, which is National Transit Day, said Krystal R. Britton, Hinesville’s public relations manager.
Once buses are running, the county will offer a week of free rides to residents to get them accustomed to the routes and system, Britton said in an e-mail.
The new three-route bus system, seven years in the making, will serve Hinesville, Flemington and Fort Stewart, Hatcher said.
Fare costs will be a $1 a day, or a $30 for a monthly pass, said Hatcher, who has been getting an average of seven to 10 calls daily about the new bus system.
 A reduced fare will be available to eligible passengers who are Medicare cardholders, the elderly or disabled clients. Deviated bus stops will cost $2 for each one-way trip, according to the Liberty Transit fact sheet. Transfer fees cost $1, whereas a monthly pass does not charge a passenger the transfer fee. Military members also will receive a discount.
County officials are hoping elderly residents, children, families and troops will use the system to their advantage, Hatcher said.
The bus system will keep more cars off the roads, and Liberty County officials plan to look into more eco-friendly fuel options after the initial costs have been covered. However, the buses are expected to last 12 years and will not be taken off the road sooner to implement eco-friendly materials because of costs.  
Officials began planning the transit system in 2003, but delays due to the inner workings of state and federal government grants pushed the project back.
 “They were taking a lot longer than anticipated,” Hatcher said. “There were some unforeseen delays that put us off by years.”
The project was supposed to be finished in 2009, she said.
Wait time for buses is expected to be 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the stop location and route, according to a Liberty Transit release. The sheet also stated that during the first year of service, buses will run in downtown Hinesville and stop at the post office, Walmart, family housing and commercial areas on Fort Stewart and the YMCA, among other sites.
The buses seat up to 25 passengers and there is standing room. There are two wheelchair tie-downs in the back of each vehicle.
“There is a ton of room,” Hatcher said. “I would not anticipate wanting to put any more than 55 passengers per vehicle. It would get a little crowded.”
Drivers log 80 hours of training before they are permitted to operate the buses. The new Liberty Transit system has hired 14 bus drivers, one office staffer, three road supervisors, a general manager and two full-time mechanics, Hatcher said. One part-time communications position still is available. The applicant must be bilingual.
Buses also will have bike racks installed for passengers to use.  
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas has been working on the project for years and said he is excited to open the new system to the public.
“I think this is a good collaboration between city of Hinesville, Fort Stewart and Flemington,” Thomas said. “It shows we can work together.”
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