MILLEDGEVILLE — For 19 years, the Section 5311 Rural Transportation program, managed through the county fire department, has operated with an objective to provide cost effective mobility to passengers throughout the community.
The Baldwin County Commissioners are interested in making the transportation system better and more efficient by bringing in a third party administrator.
Commissioners heard from the Middle Georgia Regional Commission (MGRC) Transportation and Mobility Manager Bob Rychel during Tuesday’s county work session.
“We want to give you an opportunity to consider an option that could potentially result in efficiencies of transportation operations, better service to the citizens of Baldwin County and potential cost savings to the county as well,” Rychel said.
The MGRC is one of three Georgia Department of Transportation pilot programs looking for better transportation coordination.
“I don’t know if you are aware of it, but you have two transit systems operating in your county,” he said. “There is the rural transportation that the county operates, but there is also Department of Human Services (DHS) system.”
Rychel said GDOT asked the regional commission to consolidate those two programs. Of the 112 Georgia counties that run rural transport, 77 percent coordinate with DHS.
“Basically it consists of merging those two systems resulting in efficiencies of operation because you don’t have two different vehicles under two different systems possibly going to the same location,” Rychel said. “Because you have higher utilization, you also have a lower cost per trip rate, which could result in county savings.”
The Baldwin Transit consists of two vans based at the Allen Memorial Drive fire station.
One public transit services van outfitted for ambulatory persons features a wheelchair lift and has room for just one onboard, as well as eight passengers. The other vehicle is a regular 15-passenger van.
Drivers carry out transport services from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Rides costing $2 per passenger per trip are reservation only.
Most of the pickups are service center for children with special needs, dialysis, medical appointments and work.
With 10 percent in expected fare revenue subtracted, the county and federal operating contributions were $45,495 for this recent fiscal year. This money covers van maintenance, fuel and the drivers.
Middle Georgia Community Action Agency Inc. currently provides transportation administration in 10 of the MGRC’s 11 county area.
The agency’s executive director, Nancy Smith, detailed potential services offered Tuesday.
“We’d become the third party administrator. It’s still your program and vans and you still set the rules and guidelines. We only implement the rules (the county) has selected,” Smith said. “We have one person on our staff that does nothing but 5311 coordination, and he works directly with the county commissioners.”
Under a unified Baldwin Transit, Smith said the county would have one dispatch location.
Current rural transport revenues come from passenger fares. Smith said this move would offer another money source through operational contract negotiations thereby lowering required budget line input as well as taking a financial reporting burden off the county.
Baldwin Transit’s three employees would maintain current positions, according to the proposal.
County Chairman Sammy Hall, District 3, is interested.
“Everybody knows that I think our current transportation system is very inefficient and costly. We have the van running around with one person on it. It needs to be full of people or at least more utilized,” Hall said.
Commissioners Johnny Westmoreland, District 5, and Tommy French, District 2, will work with County Manager Ralph McMullen researching this transit unification and administration proposition.