New ‘flex service’ sought for south Cobb bus route ceased during recession
by Jon Gillooly
March 27, 2013 12:16 AM | 2802 views | 5 5 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two years ago the county slashed three Cobb Community Transit routes because they proved too expensive to operate in a time when the recession was straining the county’s budget.

Slashing those three routes — two in the southern part of the county and one in the east — saved the county about $1.5 million a year, said Faye DiMassimo, the county’s director of transportation.

On Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners eyed a proposal that would partially restore service by creating a new route between Cumberland and the city of Austell that could become operational by Sept. 30.

The route, a pilot program, would run for three years at a cost of $1.43 million. Of that sum, DiMassimo said $590,000 would be paid at the local level by fare box and the county’s general fund, and $639,000 would come from the federal government.

Three buses would be used on the route, two to run the service and one to be used as a spare, operating weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday service could be added later, she said.

DiMassimo calls it “flex bus service.”

“Flex bus service is a type of service designed to help serve the unmet mobility needs of the communities when regular fixed-route service is not feasible, either because of ridership or finances,” she said.

DiMassimo said she calls it “flex service” because the bus — if you have a disability and make a reservation in advance – will pick you up within three fourths of a mile of the route.

The route itself was chosen based on ridership and connectivity of activity centers, she said.

County Chairman Tim Lee said the proposal grew out of community meetings he held with members of the South Cobb community.

“I think this is a first step in the right direction to try to get to where we need to go,” Lee said.

Cupid wants to expand route

Commissioner Lisa Cupid said she was pleased to see the program move forward.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations regarding transit, and the general observation has been that it’s not always about numbers, it’s about need, and there are a lot of people who need transit services. They need this to be able to get to work, to get to doctor’s appointments, to get to the grocery store, and so I’m very pleased to see this and to see there is a possibility of reinstating some type of service between now and the end of the year.”

Yet Cupid expressed reservations about the route only spanning from Cumberland to Austell.

“I don’t necessarily have another route in mind, but I think there may be a need outside of the current route that is not reflected,” Cupid said. “We’ve had meetings in Powder Springs where some of their residents had some concern about the bus not going out in that area. I see an immediate concern from Powder Springs that there is no service there. There may be some others in the Osborne area, I don’t know.”

DiMassimo said she initially did not suggest a route into Powder Springs due to a lack of ridership there, but said she would reevaluate that decision to determine whether it would be successful.

Residents to weigh in

The exact route will be finalized after several community meetings to allow residents to weigh in on the proposal, DiMassimo said.

The proposed route will start at the Cumberland Transfer Center and run south along the Fulton County line to Veterans Memorial Highway before heading west to downtown Austell.

CCT’s total budget is $18 million.

Of that $18 million, 33 percent is funded by passenger fares.

For 2012, $3 million of the $18 million was paid by the county’s general fund, with the rest coming from federal dollars.

The general fund contribution is normally $6 million but was reduced in 2012 to $3 million by additional federal dollars.
Comments
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Mariettan
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August 10, 2013
I think the planned route is good except for the odd dip onto Atlanta Road. Instead the CCT should introduce a route that runs along Atlanta Road.

I also think that the planned flex bus route should go all the way to Powder Springs.

I think that this idea will work well. It would allow a connection to route 30, which goes to Atlanta.
Powder Springer
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April 05, 2013
I would welcome an expansion of the Xpress commuter bus system in South Cobb more than curb-to-curb services (except for the elderly or handicapped of course).

I'd love to see Saturday Xpress services for those who would like to go into the City on weekends and not fool with driving, as opposed to the M-F only service that Xpress has now.
A. Sphincter
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March 27, 2013
Well, if you can't leave a light rail system up Hwy41 or 75 as a 'LEGACY', then a half baked 'Flex Route' is the next best thing. Right, DUMassimo?

To David Staples: concerning whether the route is paratransit busses or full size busses. Good Question. There are too many neighborhoods through this area within 3/4 mile of the route pictured to run full size busses. But who knows, if there's a bad way to do it, you can count on Faye.

I hope this will help people, I really do.
David Staples
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March 27, 2013
While the idea sounds like a good idea on the surface, I've got a few concerns.

1. Faye says the program will cost $1.43M. If $639k comes from the federal government and $590k comes from fares and the general fund, where does the other $201k come from?

2. Federal monies are drying up. What happens if the $639k is eliminated from the federal government? Are county taxpayers supposed to foot that part of the bill as well?

3. How much of the $590k are they forecasting to come from fares and how much to come from the general fund? What are the ridership numbers they're forecasting? Just running some quick numbers, it looks like it would take roughly 301 people (or 150 round trips) riding this bus every week day on average at $2.50 each (one-way) to break even so that no monies are required out of the general fund. (Assuming the other $201k is accounted for somewhere else that I mentioned above.)

4. Are these going to be full size buses or shorter (paratransit type) buses?
C. Smith
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March 27, 2013
I greatly thank Cupid and Lee for their insight into serving all the constituents of the county. They both show great leadership in a democratic society by allowing all residents to weigh in on their proposal. Those of us that own vehicles need to respectfully consider not only those that don't, but the future of the county where car ownership would not a requirement (saving the environment, progressing, bicycles to work, etc.). However, we still need to respectfully consider the opinion of others that don't want the county to go in that direction and that don't want Cobb County to be a "big city metropolis." I am of the latter.

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