What we want:
Athens Transit should expand to additional parts of the county. Our top priority among these expansions is U.S. Highway 29 toward Madison County.
- People can get more places. As just one example, expanding service up Highway 29 would enable people to get to the VA clinic, the Department of Driver Services (how are you supposed to get there if your license is suspended, for example?), Athens Christian School, and several neighborhoods with large low-income and/or undocumented populations.
- Protection for undocumented Athenians. Too many of our undocumented neighbors have to drive to work, school, or leisure activities without the driver’s licenses denied to them by the Georgia State Legislature. In doing so, they risk tickets, detention, and deportation. When the bus serves more of our neighborhoods, more undocumented folks will be able to get where they need to go without needing to risk having their lives torn apart.
- Safety. Many of the areas to which we need to expand bus service, including U.S. 29, U.S. 441, and Macon Hwy., have no pedestrian or bike infrastructure and too many people are forced to walk or bike there for lack of other transportation options.
- A more comprehensive system. When people know they can count on the bus system to serve most, rather than only some, of their transportation needs, they can integrate it more thoroughly in their life. It can become the default means of getting where you need to go instead of only an auxiliary option. Some would feel more comfortable foregoing a first or a second car, knowing the bus can serve more of their needs than it currently does.
- More federal money. As ridership increases with expanded service, Athens Transit may be eligible for more federal funding.
- Climate change mitigation. Increased use of the bus instead of cars results in a reduction of the emissions driving climate change and air pollution.
- Economic development. Studies show that, on average, every dollar invested by local governments in public transit leads to four dollars in new economic activity.
- Fewer traffic accidents. Buses have been shown to be much safer for riders than cars, leading to better health for Athenians and a reduced strain on our health care system.
- Less need for parking spaces.
- Less traffic.
The political situation:
Athens for Everyone has submitted a proposal for operational funding for expanding a bus route along US 29 to the TSPLOST Committee that is developing recommendations for the one-cent transportation-funding sales tax that will be on the ballot this November. We will campaign hard for this proposal to be included in the final version of the referendum and then work to ensure its passage at the ballot box.
Further expansions will require continued conversations with Athens Transit and the support of a majority of the ACC Commission.