Seventy-nine-year-old April Kennedy lives alone. Most of the time she enjoys her independence, but every week she needs help getting to necessary appointments. Kennedy relies on a rural transit bus to provide round-trip service at least once a week.
Kennedy’s trip is one of the more than 200,000 provided in 2019 by the Three Rivers Regional Transit System, an agency that administers services for nine counties in Georgia DOT’s West Central Region. None of these counties have municipal bus systems, so the regional service provides a lifeline to those who would otherwise be homebound: The elderly, disabled and poor.
The Three Rivers Regional Transit System’s budget for 2019 was $1.4 million, about half ($698,000) came from the Federal Transit Administration’s Section 5311 Formula Grants for Rural Areas and was administered by Georgia DOT. The other half came from matching funds, most of which was allocated through the Georgia Department of Human Services. Counties contribute anywhere from $1,500 to $35,000 per year to the program, and riders pay $2-3 one-way for the service.
Three Rivers’ rural transit services utilize 22 buses, but to meet all requests, they need an additional seven buses and associated staff. Right now, the service only operates on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is a problem for many rural residents, including third shift workers and people who work full-time hours but need help to go shopping or to after-hours clinics at night. In addition, there are no rural transit systems that take clients out of their counties or regions; for those who require specialized medical treatments that are only available in larger cities, they often struggle to find necessary transportation.
Of Georgia’s 159 counties, 123 have transit service and 36 have no transit service.