Quincy shuttle funding in question

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By Alice Du Pont

Whether or not the city of Quincy will provide more funding for Big Bend Transit Shuttle Service will have to wait until the February meeting of the Transportation for the Disadvantaged Board has concluded.

Commissioners tabled funding a request from the company until the city’s representative to the Board brings back answers to the continuing requests for more funding from the company.

During the Jan. 23 commission meeting, Big Bend requested the city and the county both fund the company’s request at $18,000 each. Another $36,000 would come from fares collected to get the $72,000 needed to keep the service operating through the end of February.

“Given that circumstance and reduction in trip ridership and the five-day work week as opposed to the four-day week, after Feb.28 the bus shuttle service in the city of Quincy will end unless the city and county enter into a new contract with Big Bend to continue the service for the remainder of the (fiscal) year. The overall cost of operating the shuttle for the year on a five-day schedule form 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. is $82,000,” said Bernard Piawah, director of building and planning.

On Sept. 30, 2012, the contract with Big Bend for their in-town Quincy service ended. The city and the county asked the company to continue the service.

Big Bend Transit Inc. provides bus shuttle service in Gadsden County. Among the services they offer is the Quincy in-town bus service, which provides service along a fixed route within the city limits. The city and the county contribute annually to the operation of the Quincy Shuttle.

After the contract ended in September, the two entities asked the company to continue the service based on a new fare and schedule.

Prior to Nov. 1, the fare was $1 per trip and the time of operation was 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., generating $12,000 from fares collected. Beginning Nov. 1, the fare became $2.50 per trip and the time of operation was changed from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and generated approximately $12,000. The ridership decreased, but the increase in fares generated nearly the same amount of money.

“It didn’t quite turn out the way we predicted. In order to increase ridership, we are proposing to change the fares from $2.50 to $1.75 and expand the route to include Gretna, St. John or Midway. The expansion of coverage to these new areas and elimination of non-effective routes are expected to generate more ridership and greater commercial activity in Quincy without an increase in the $82,000 cost of operations,” Piawah said.

But commissioners were not so sure the money would be well spent.

“Big Bend is a financially solvent company. Now they’re back for the third time. I think they want us to take over (the shuttle)” said Commissioner Andy Gay.

And while Commissioner Larry Edwards said he knows the request could become very expensive, he said, “The people who really need this service get lost in all of this.”

A final decision is expected at the Feb. 26 commission meeting.