We are unique among the Regional Commissions in Georgia for our involvement in transportation coordination. Beginning in 1999, SWGRC began to work closely with the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) to promote the efficient use of available transportation resources and was awarded the broker contract for the Southwest DHR region. The system is now operating more than 75 vehicles providing transit services to the public and the Division of Aging Services, Department of Family and Children Services, Mental Health, Development Disabilities and Addictive Disease, and Public Health and Rehabilitation Services. This program currently provides approximately 400,000 trips annually. In addition, our regional rural public transit service provides nearly 175,000 trips per year to work, businesses for shopping, and other activities.
An interesting anecdote: In the first proposal we submitted to DHR, we were told to plan services to meet between 180,000 and 220,000 trip requests per year, but in the first year of the contract, we were actually able to provide nearly 300,000 trips for DHR’s clients, while staying within the approved budget. This was at a time when fuel prices had increased significantly. For successfully expanding services and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the coordinated transportation system, we received an untold number of compliments from the agencies we serve, and two national awards.
In 2002 the Southwest Georgia RC approached the Georgia Department of Transportation and applied to be one of two pilot programs that would provide regional rural public transit services for an 11 county area. This was an ambitious undertaking and required the RC and GDOT to work closely together to find new ways of recording, reporting and administering its rural program. This program continues to assist GDOT with finding new ways of insuring a public transit choice is offered to residents without other forms of transportation. Throughout 2002 and 2003, SWGRC worked with the Georgia Department of Transportation to implement transit services in all 14 counties of the region, subsequently coordinating both GDOT and DHR programs, and is successfully providing seamless transit services in all 14 counties of the region.
The RC has begun to work closely with local Rural Transit Advisory Committees, established in each county, to determine how services can be improved for residents, as well as developing partnerships with industries in the area to secure reliable transportation for workers. The RC feels that even additional transit services will be offered at virtually no cost to residents and local governments. Thirteen counties are served under the regional umbrella, and Thomas County operates an independent system that contracts to provide Human Resource and Community Health Services in their county.