February 12, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---Cutting some Augusta transit routes was a way to save money...but now riders complain the seats are so full, people are sitting on the floor.
Today commissioners met to rethink the decision to trim the bus schedule.
Some of the commissioners say they were not even aware of the overcrowding until our story aired last week. And while there was no major change out of today's meeting, there was definitely progress...along with some heated debate.
"The wheelchairs, people can't hardly get on the bus," said transit rider Betty Flower. "We just don't have enough room. It is a disaster. It is horrible."
Commissioners put the brakes on five buses a month ago to save $1.25 million.
Riders say that's led to crowded conditions, with people standing in the aisles and even sitting on the floor.
Freddie Lee Robinson says it's now a choice of cramming in or being late to work.
"I can't lose my job," he said. "If I be late, they'll fire me, and I don't want to lose it."
Commissioners, transit directors and the president of the Augusta NAACP met today to talk about the problem. All agree something needs to be done.
"I rode the bus," Commissioner Calvin Holland said. "I stood up and my knees gave me a fit, and we need to make some kind of adjustment."
Ideas included cutting some transit administrative staff to free up money.
But transit planner Juriah Lewis told the board he knew there'd be overcrowding. He says he warned the Commission before the cuts, and now says they ignored him. He says we now have to fix a problem they created.
Marion Williams says he was offended, and told Lewis he could go find another job.
"I take offense to saying we don't listen and we don't know what's going on," Commissioner Williams said.
When asked if he regretted what he said, Lewis responded, "No, I don't regret it. It's the truth."
In the end, no final decision was made, but the committee agreed to quickly look into the cost of adding more buses.
They know the longer they wait, the longer hundreds who depend on the rides will have to wait.
Transit director Heyward Johnson was able to tell us it will cost half a million dollars to get three more buses running. Commissioners will get that information next week and decide where to go from there.