By Joel Hall
Nearly five months after the dismantling of Clayton County's C-TRAN bus service, a new, private, bus company is attempting to fill the void.
QuickTransit, a local service catering specifically to Clayton residents, began operating on Monday. With a fleet of five buses and six paratransit vans, the service is picking up two of C-TRAN's busiest routes -- the 503 (Riverdale/Mt. Zion Parkway), and the 504 (Riverdale/Ga. Highway 85/Flint River).
QuickTransit's 53 route will service stops along the old 503 route, including Mt. Zion Boulevard, Southlake Mall, Southern Regional Medical Center, Ga. Highway 85 and Garden Walk Boulevard, and the College Park MARTA station.
The bus system's 54 route will service stops along the old 504 route, running a loop from the Harold R. Banke Justice Center, along Ga. Highway 85, to the College Park MARTA station.
According to Deborah Flannagan, executive director of the Georgia Public Service Commission, QuickTransit was issued a emergency certificate to operate on July 26. She said the lack of adequate public transportation since the March 31 shutdown of C-TRAN influenced the commission's decision to approve the service.
"Because there was such a need to get some service in Clayton County, we went ahead and gave them an emergency certificate," Flannagan said. "When you cut a service like that, it can be difficult for people and students. That carrier [QuickTransit] has received certification on a temporary basis. Typically, after a year, we will review them and convert that into a permanent certification ... granted everything goes well."
Prior to owning QuickTransit, Clayton County resident, Tywanna Albro, was a stay-at-home mother. However, following the closure of C-TRAN, Albro and her husband decided to take matters into their own hands.
"Clayton County is really suffering because there is no transportation," Albro said. "Businesses are closing, people are losing their jobs, or they are paying lots of money on taxis. We actually took a leap of faith and invested our own money into the service. We bought buses from Virginia and we bought buses from California. We are growing, and we are currently looking for more drivers."
The service, based at 1511 Commercial Court in Jonesboro, currently has 20 drivers, and one on-site mechanic, Albro said. It's five regular buses can seat up to 40 people each, and it's six paratransit vans can fit up to 22 people, she said.
The standard cost of a one-way ticket is $3.50 -- twice the cost of a C-TRAN ticket at the time of it's closure. However, QuickTransit offers discounted fares of $2.50 one-way to disabled persons, seniors over the age of 65, children under the age of three (up to two children per adult), and to students with a valid student identification card, according to Albro.
As it stands, the buses pick up once an hour, with the first 53 route bus leaving Mt. Zion High School at 4:30 a.m., and the last bus leaving the College Park MARTA station at 12:24 a.m., Monday through Friday.
The first 54 route bus leaves the Justice Center at 5:21 a.m., and the last bus leaves the College Park MARTA station at 10:20 p.m., on weekdays.
There is limited service on Saturday and Sunday, and all of the buses QuickTransit operates are handicapped accessible, Albro said.
The company eventually plans to service C-TRAN's former 501 (Forest Park/Justice Center/Jonesboro), and 502 (Jonesboro/Courthouse) routes, as advertising and ridership increases, she added.
Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon said residents and businesses along the Ga. Highway 85 corridor were deeply impacted by the shutdown of C-TRAN. She believes the system can be a great benefit to the city.
"I'm glad that God opened that window, so we can have transportation for our needy citizens," Wynn-Dixon said. "It's not only going to help with our citizens, but it is going to help our economic development, and make us attractive. I've talked to a lot of the local ministers, and their congregations are relieved ... they just pray that it doesn't come and go."
Facing funding shortfalls, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted 4-1 in October to end the C-TRAN bus service. BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell, who voted against the C-TRAN shutdown, said QuickTransit should be "commended for what they are doing."
"Given the difficulty that many of our citizens in Clayton County have faced in the last several months, and the period of desperation of many of our paratransit riders ... I welcome the service," Bell said. "Provided this service meets the state regulations, we're certainly happy to see them provide whatever service it can to the county, until a time in which our board can wrap our arms around this transit issue."
Albro said QuickTransit plans to sell advertising on, and inside, it's buses, and apply for federal grants to offset the cost of running the service. She said that, eventually, she would like to lower the fares and offer service to other counties.
"Right now, we're just trying to help the Clayton County residents and get them mobile again," she said. "I think when we get the word out, and people see that there is a reliable source of transportation, they will ride."