Slashing those three routes — two in the southern part of the county and one in the east — saved the county about $1.5 million a year, said Faye DiMassimo, the county’s director of transportation.
On Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners eyed a proposal that would partially restore service by creating a new route between Cumberland and the city of Austell that could become operational by Sept. 30.
The route, a pilot program, would run for three years at a cost of $1.43 million. Of that sum, DiMassimo said $590,000 would be paid at the local level by fare box and the county’s general fund, and $639,000 would come from the federal government.
Three buses would be used on the route, two to run the service and one to be used as a spare, operating weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday service could be added later, she said.
DiMassimo calls it “flex bus service.”
“Flex bus service is a type of service designed to help serve the unmet mobility needs of the communities when regular fixed-route service is not feasible, either because of ridership or finances,” she said.
DiMassimo said she calls it “flex service” because the bus — if you have a disability and make a reservation in advance – will pick you up within three fourths of a mile of the route.
The route itself was chosen based on ridership and connectivity of activity centers, she said.
County Chairman Tim Lee said the proposal grew out of community meetings he held with members of the South Cobb community.
“I think this is a first step in the right direction to try to get to where we need to go,” Lee said.
Cupid wants to expand route
Commissioner Lisa Cupid said she was pleased to see the program move forward.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations regarding transit, and the general observation has been that it’s not always about numbers, it’s about need, and there are a lot of people who need transit services. They need this to be able to get to work, to get to doctor’s appointments, to get to the grocery store, and so I’m very pleased to see this and to see there is a possibility of reinstating some type of service between now and the end of the year.”
Yet Cupid expressed reservations about the route only spanning from Cumberland to Austell.
“I don’t necessarily have another route in mind, but I think there may be a need outside of the current route that is not reflected,” Cupid said. “We’ve had meetings in Powder Springs where some of their residents had some concern about the bus not going out in that area. I see an immediate concern from Powder Springs that there is no service there. There may be some others in the Osborne area, I don’t know.”
DiMassimo said she initially did not suggest a route into Powder Springs due to a lack of ridership there, but said she would reevaluate that decision to determine whether it would be successful.
Residents to weigh in
The exact route will be finalized after several community meetings to allow residents to weigh in on the proposal, DiMassimo said.
The proposed route will start at the Cumberland Transfer Center and run south along the Fulton County line to Veterans Memorial Highway before heading west to downtown Austell.
CCT’s total budget is $18 million.
Of that $18 million, 33 percent is funded by passenger fares.
For 2012, $3 million of the $18 million was paid by the county’s general fund, with the rest coming from federal dollars.
The general fund contribution is normally $6 million but was reduced in 2012 to $3 million by additional federal dollars.