“We are kind of busy. Whoever we pick up we have to take back home usually,” Gaston said. “We try to keep everyone in a certain area when we pick up in the morning.”
County transit driver Jerome Marshall estimates serving more than 80 people between both vehicles on a crazy day. He said most clients are senior citizens or residents from the veterans home. The average trip time is five to 20 minutes, according to Marshall.
Drivers use North Jefferson and the Highway 441 bypass, working county zones as a team.
Numbers are up lately though not all callers get served depending on time and location. Sometimes, folks must wait.
The dedicated driver said it’s tough not getting to everyone. Often, callers near the county lines are just too far away.
“It’s hard turning people down. Medical people are really important to me,” Gaston said. “Now with this program, the phone is constantly ringing. Every five to 15 minutes we are picking somebody up. People don’t understand we aren’t a cab.”
Gaston said a bigger computer screen and another van could boost the program tremendously.
“I wish we could get another handicap van. We’ve tried to adjust our handicap van to take two wheelchairs,” she said.
County Manager Ralph McMullen said the system needs help, but few options seem financially doable right now.
“We are getting calls and probably having people that we can’t serve,” McMullen said. “To be able to redesign it, we really need additional resources. At this time, those resources are not available.”
March 19, the Baldwin County Commissioners backed a Georgia DOT grant renewal application to continue the program. A $101,100 total budget allocation begins in July.
With 10 percent in expected fare revenue subtracted, the county and federal operating contributions are $45,495 for this fiscal year. This money covers van maintenance, fuel and the drivers.