Columbia County recently was awarded nearly $225,000 in federal stimulus funds from the Georgia Department of Transportation to upgrade the rural transit system.
The department provides Columbia County residents with "curb-to-curb" transportation within the county and in Augusta north of Gordon Highway, said Jeff Asmann, manager of the Public Transit department.
The funds will be used to purchase three new 12- to 15-passenger vans, a wheelchair lift, new dispatching software, seven GPS monitors, seven security cameras, new radio system, a computer, printer and other office equipment.
Asmann said the new acquisitions will streamline the operation.
"We're always looking at efficiency," he said. "If there is a way to get software to do what a person is doing, that frees up that person to do something that software can't. That's what we're trying to do."
Currently, residents' names are added to daily lists when they request pick-up or drop-off times for doctors appointments, grocery shopping or other needs. Each morning, transit employees work out schedules for the day before heading out on the routes.
"All by hand," Asmann said, adding that the dispatching and GPS software will make that simpler and more efficient.
Asmann said the department's seven transit vehicles average 600 to 800 one-way passenger trips per month and travels 150 to 250 miles per day.
The three new vans, which aren't expected to arrive for up to a year, will replace older vehicles or those with high mileage.
County Emergency and Operations Services Director Pam Tucker, who oversees the transit system, said the software will help plan the best, safest and quickest routes and help the dispatcher know exactly where all the vehicles are at all times.
Asmann said he hopes the software, which DOT is trying to provide to all rural transit systems, will eventually allow the department to accept online transit requests.
By the summer, Asmann said he expects the software to be purchased and employees trained to use it.
"That's the hope," Asmann said. "We want to have it in place as soon as possible."
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