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City proposes cutting some METRA bus trips in spring of 2018

FILE -- Passengers board a METRA bus on Linwood Ave. in Columbus. The Columbus Consolidated Government is proposing changes which would mean the discontinuation of some routes.
FILE -- Passengers board a METRA bus on Linwood Ave. in Columbus. The Columbus Consolidated Government is proposing changes which would mean the discontinuation of some routes. mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com

The Columbus Consolidated Government is proposing changes to METRA bus service which would mean the discontinuation of some trips and routes.

City Planning Director Rick Jones presented the plans Tuesday at a Columbus Council meeting. He said public hearings would be held for citizen input, with the comment period from Jan. 14 to Feb. 12.

“The public comment period allows everyone the opportunity to provide feedback and get involved in bus service changes,” according to information provided by METRA. “All comments will be reviewed by METRA staff and will receive significant consideration in the decision-making process. Based on the comments, the proposed service changes may be abandoned, modified or advanced as proposed.”

The proposed cuts to service come about a year after METRA made improvements to the bus service, purchasing new buses, hiring new drivers and starting new routes.

But Jones said city leaders also expressed concern about whether the city could afford all the changes long-term. So city staff promised to review the changes sometime in the future to determine whether they were effective and efficient.

Jones said the proposed changes unveiled Tuesday are the result of a recent evaluation.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley said the city received $22.4 million to implement the changes a year ago, and officials have been evaluating nighttime trips, in particular, to see if they’re heavily utilized.

The $22.4 million comes from the 2012 vote on the TSPLOST or what is formally known as the Transportation Investment Act.

“... We’re saying to you that we know those trips, those routes, and we’re going to make adjustments as necessary,” he told council. “Because we know it doesn’t make sense to run those trips, if we’re not getting ridership, and we know that $22.4 million is here with us for many years to come.”

If approved, the plan would eliminate seven trips on weekdays and Saturdays. Those trips are:

▪ Route 1 - East Wynnton: Outbound 9 p.m., 10 p.m.; inbound 9:28 p.m., 10:28 p.m.

▪ Route 4 - Fort Benning: Outbound 10 p.m.; inbound 10:40 p.m.

▪ Route 5 - North Highland/Columbus State/Peachtree Mall: Outbound 10 p.m.; inbound 10:46 p.m.

▪ Route 6 - Columbus State/Milgen Road: Outbound 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.; inbound 5:38 a.m., 8:38 p.m., 9:38 p.m. and 10:38 p.m.

▪ Route 9 - Bradley Park/Columbus Park Crossing: Outbound 10 p.m.; inbound 10:40 p.m.

▪ Route 10 - Airport Thruway/Veterans Parkway: Outbound 9:30 p.m.; inbound 10:11 pm.

▪ Route 12 - Veterans Parkway/Civic Center/Victory Drive: Outbound 9 p.m., 10 p.m.; inbound 9:25 p.m., 10:25 p.m.

The plan also would discontinue a trip on Route 7 — outbound 6 p.m. and inbound 6:42 p.m. - weekdays only

It would discontinue two complete routes on weekdays and Saturdays and add two new trips weekdays only.

The routes discontinued would be Route 8 (Uptown/Civic Commons) and Route 11 (Warm Springs/Weems Road)

The trips added would be:

▪ Route 5 - North Highland/Columbus State/Peachtree Mall: Outbound 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m.; Inbound 2:16 p.m., 3:16 p.m.

▪ Route 7 - Columbus South: Outbound 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m.; inbound 9:42 a.m., 10:42 a.m., 12:42 p..m., 1:42 p.m.,  and 2:42 p.m.

Changes will be made to Route 3 (St. Mary’s Road/ Buena Vista road/Shatulga Road) and Route 6 (Columbus State/Milgen Road).

An informational meeting will be held Jan. 30 at the METRA Transit Main Office training room, 814 Linwood Boulevard. Information will be provided from 4 to 5 p.m. and public comment solicited from 5 to 6 p.m.

A second informational meeting will be held Feb. 1 at the same location, with the information session from 5 to 6 p.m. and public comment from 6 to 7 p.m.

“Proposed bus service changes also will receive a citywide public hearing at City Council,” according to information provided by METRA. “All changes will be advertised by the City as part of the Council Agenda for public discussion during the first reading. At the next regularly scheduled Council meeting, the service changes will go into a second reading. If there is no further discussion, a final vote by the City Council will approve the changes.”

Those unable to to attend the information meetings can submit comments to METRA by 5 p.m. on Feb. 12. Mail to Att: Service Change Comments, METRA Transit System, P.O. Box 1340, Columbus, GA 31902-1340.

Comments also can be submitted at 706-225-4590 (English), 706-225-4606 (Spanish) or METRAino@columbusga.org.

Alva James-Johnson: 706-571-8521, @amjreporter

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