C-TRAN could lend hand to soldiers

By Justin Boron

The extension of C-TRAN bus service to Clayton County's Army garrison may provide a more efficient method of transporting single soldiers who live on Fort McPherson to their jobs at Fort Gillem each day, an Army official said.

Cancellation of a MARTA route that bused soldiers directly from base to base has created a gap in the two bases' transit coverage, potentially forcing military personnel into an inefficient transportation scenario, said Col. Angela Manos, garrison/installation commander for the forts.

The County Commission is considering the use of a C-TRAN shuttle, costing $51,414, to replace the old MARTA route.

District 4 County Commissioner Charley Griswell greeted the issue with enthusiasm at a meeting this week, suggesting the measure could illustrate the base's importance to the community amid the threat of military base closings throughout the nation.

"If we are going to show a positive move that we want to keep that base open and send a message, then we are going to come up with the best route and support it," he said.

The transportation gap presents an unavoidable dilemma for the two military bases, Manos said, as she requested the assistance of Fort Gillem's host county.

"The only housing we have for our single soldiers is located on Fort McPherson, and they're required to work at Fort Gillem," she said. "So without transportation, they don't really have any way to get there."

For now, the forts have remedied the problem temporarily through a shuttle service paid for by U.S. Army funds, said Bob Bolia, director of public affairs at Fort McPherson.

But he couldn't be sure how long the service would last, saying funds for it could evaporate as early as October this year.

If the Army service loses funding Bolia said, the trip from Fort McPherson to Fort Gillem could transform from a short bus ride to a circuitous route including three different modes of transportation.

From Fort McPherson, soldiers would have to take MARTA rail to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, then transfer to C-TRAN for bus service to Fort Gillem, Manos said.

Upon their arrival, military personnel made up primarily of young, single soldiers would have to walk from the base gates to their final destination, Bolia said.

Despite the County Commission's affinity for the measure, the proposition of a new C-TRAN service could get held up in a legal snag, said County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray.

Bray said he needed to check with the county's attorney to find out if sending C-TRAN outside the county would be legal.