CHATHAM COUNTY, GA (WTOC) - Chatham Area Transit calls it the most impactful transit project that they have ever done - one that will overhaul CAT’s fixed route bus network.
Tuesday, there’s an open house at the Coastal Georgia Center for citizens to find out more about what’s needed on this project.
It’s the first time since the late 80′s that it’s been done, and it’s much needed, especially since CAT says the biggest reason for a double-digit decline in rider-ship over the past couple of years is the stagnation of the transit system.
There are other factors, though, like low-interest auto loans, lower gas prices, and even things like more online shopping and the popularity of ride-sharing.
The county has changed a lot in 30 years, so in an effort to create a transit plan better tailored for county residents' needs, Chatham Area Transit will be looking for public feedback over the course of the year to be part of an 18-month comprehensive redesign effort.
“There are absolutely some key choices that are really about what the community wants, big trade-offs that only the community can tell us how to resolve," said Michelle Poyourow, a consultant with Jarrett Walker + Associates.
Poyourow explained as a consultant, it’s not her role to make any recommendations - just present CAT with options they can handle without incurring any additional cost.
“We made it clear with our consultants that this project is going to be cost neutral, and basically we’re going to have to decide with our current resources how do we best use them," said Grant Sparks, Planning Director for Chatham Area Transit Authority.
CAT wants to know top priorities for current riders, future riders and stakeholders alike when it comes to things like route coverage, frequency, time of service - all the way to bus stop amenities.
“There’s no technically correct way to do this. In some places, people value short walks more, and in some places, people value short waits more, so this is a question we’re putting before the public,” Poyourow said.
“It’s a long, long process, but the public engagement is the most important thing we can do, because if we misread the public, then we’re going to mis-design the system, and it won’t be as successful as we want," said Howard French, Chairman, Board of Directors, CAT.
In addition to the public feedback meetings and open houses, CAT also has an online survey on their website.
CAT is also willing to come to you and your community group to explain the project and hear what’s important to you when it comes to public transit.