The Douglas County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted Tuesday, August 7, to accept the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) federal grant, which is the next step in implementing a fixed route shuttle bus system. The decision passed by a vote of 3-2.
“I believe this vote will not create a great divide in Douglas County because we are one Douglas,” said Douglas County Commission Chairman Dr. Romona Jackson-Jones. “I am proud of this Board of Commissioners for listening to the voices of the citizens by moving the H. E. Holmes route back into Douglas County.”
In reaction to the effort, time, and energy placed on expanding transportation services in Douglas County, Chairman Jones reiterated her support of the Transportation Committee, including Chairman Kelly Robinson and Vice Chairman Mike Mulcare. “I applaud them for their intensive sensitivity and regard for both the balance and equity on every side of this contentious topic of a 15 seat passenger van/shuttle system in Douglas County,” commented Jones.
The Douglas County Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) federal grant application submitted by the Board of Commissioners for $4.8 million with a $1.2 million local match over a three-year period was one of more than 100 projects approved by the Atlanta Regional Commission Board at its June 27, 2018 meeting. In a statement released after the historic vote, District 2 Commissioner Kelly Robinson described the outcome as a major victory for Douglas County.
“This was not just a policy shift, but a progressive step in the right direction where the needs of a broader population base are finally being fulfilled,” he stated. “I am personally pleased that I was in a position to advocate and work hard over the past three years to make this happen.”
District 4 Commissioner Ann Jones Guider, who recently held an open forum on the fixed route bus system, weighted in and called on the community to come together regarding the highly contested topic. “This issue has divided our county. If we show the people of this county we can work together, we can accomplish much more, and we will bring this county back together.”
“The acceptance of the CMAQ grant will be the first step in the right direction for the citizens of Douglas County,” said District 1 Commissioner Henry Mitchell, who voted to accept the grant that will fund four fixed shuttle bus routes in Douglas County. He further elaborated that the introduction of this pilot mobility program to the citizens will have a significant impact not only on the economic development sector but the “improvement of air quality and the enhancement of opportunities for those who need transportation.”
A modification of the CMAQ grant was made during the BOC Commission meeting connecting one of the fixed routes to Cobb County, which District 3 Commissioner Mike Mulcare said was a positive change. He asserted that regardless of the vote today, the issue of public transit is not going to go away. “We just simply cannot pave enough roads and put so many additional cars on the road. We have to have a public transit solution,” explained Mulcare.
Now that the vote has passed, the work to bring the bus service to actualization begins. The completing, filing, and formal approval of the FTA application could take several months. Douglas County hopes to have the bus service operational during the first quarter of 2019.
“The real work begins with the administration filing the formal application to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the actual funds,” explained Commissioner Robinson. “At the same time, the Board of Commissioners must award contracts to a third party provider to operate the bus service and a consultant to perform formal planning and communication.”
More information on the fixed route shuttle service and the four routes can be found on the Connect Douglas page of the Douglas County government website.