News 12 at 6 o'clock, August 11, 2008
AUGUSTA, Ga.---The Richmond County transit department says their fuel budget is running on empty. There's not enough money to keep city buses running through the end of the year. The department is asking the Augusta commission for help.
What do you think about Augusta city buses? "They're great," said Pam Hunt. "I don't have any transportation so the bus is good to go."
Not really. The fuel budget is expected to dry up in 21 days.
"I had no idea," said Pam. "That's terrible because people who don't have cars won't have transportation."
It's a startling reality that has city leaders scrambling.
"We've got quite a few people out there depending on those buses," said commissioner Calvin Holland.
"It's my only transportation. I'm sure it's important for the whole public of Augusta. We all need transportation. A lot of people can't afford to have cars," said Nicole Oakley. She depends on public transit to get to work and to school.
Diesel prices are up 57 percent since the first of the year. "I'm trying to maintain the same level of service at the same time, but I need added money," said Heyward Johnson who is director of Augusta Public Transit.
The transit department needs $330,000 to get through the end of the year.
"We need fuel to operate," said Johnson. "Slowly but surely people are beginning to realize the benefit of having a transit system because ridership is up."
Johnson says ridership is up 3 percent from this time last year.
The city administrator recommended using $25,000 from the city contingency fund. That will keep city buses running for about 2 months. Bus fares haven't gone up since April 2001. Commissioners say it is time for an increase.