It was launched with great fanfare back in November…the new route between the Augusta Mall and Fort Gordon.
“There is potential for it, but that’s a little bit steep,” said regular bus rider Frank Patalano. “You’re not getting your money’s worth?” we asked. “When the government comes to spending your money, you never get your money’s worth,”
The bus cost $152,000 for the six week trial run, which saw only 1,300 riders and brought in only $1,400 at the fare box.
“Very disappointed, what we need is more advertising, more ways to get to the public and let them know transportation is getting better,” said Annette McKie, of the Augusta Bus Rider Association.
Knowledge of the route is a problem. Two Fort Gordon soldiers we met drove to the mall, and they told us they had no idea there was bus service available. Some believe that’s the city’s fault.
“We didn’t do a good job. We got to let the soldiers know, like I just said, did we advertise it? That thing did we promoted, ii you could put it out there, but if nobody knows it’s out there, ‘oh, if I had known,” said Commissioner Marion Williams.
Mayor Pro-Tem Grady Smith supported the six month trial for the bus route and he doesn’t want it to end, but he says it can’t go on the way it is. “Going the way we are going now, we’re just dropping bad money on top of bad money.”
Bus service isn’t expected to make a profit, but just how much loss is acceptable to keep the Fort Gordon service running?
“Would you want to put up another $150,000 for another six months?” we asked Williams. “I don’t know about putting up another $150,000. Those numbers scare people, George, when you use that,” he answered.
Both Smith and Williams agree, changes need to be made with the bus route like maybe using smaller buses and changing the hours of operation. And, Williams says he will turn to newly-hired Augusta Public Transit Department director Patrick Stephens for direction.