The Quincy Shuttle, operated by Big Bend Transit, is back in business until the end of this fiscal year. The in-town shuttle ceased operating on Feb. 28 because the emergency funding from the city of Quincy and Gadsden County had dried up. But the two governments have given the company a bailout.
During its March 5 regular meeting, the Gadsden County Board of Commissioners voted to subsidize Big Bend Transit with $36,000 to continue through the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. However, that was contingent on the actions the city of Quincy would take at its March 12 meeting.
The Quincy City Commission voted to revisit the issue during the March 12 meeting. After a lengthy discussion three commissioners — Keith Dowdell, Larry Edwards and Derrick Elias — voted to match the county’s contribution at $36,000 for the fiscal year.
Mayor Angela Sapp did not attend the meeting but said she favored funding the shuttle during the Feb. 21 meeting. Commissioner Andy Gay said he couldn’t support spending the kind of money requested by the company because, he said, there is a better way to provide transportation.
“We could use that money to put a down payment on our own bus and partner with the county. We could have our own driver and the insurance could be carried by a rider between the county and the city,” Gay said.
Edwards said he hated to spend the money but was torn because he received a call prior to the meeting from a wheelchair-bound citizen who used the shuttle to get to doctor’s appointments and to local stores. That citizen, he said, has no other method of transportation.
However, county and city commissioners made it clear this would be the last time Big Bend Transit could count on them for money.
“I don’t like it when people say they want to help you but it looks like they only want to help themselves. Big Bend Transit holds us hostage with people who are most disadvantaged,” Edwards said.
Dowdell, who was given permission to meet with school board representatives, said the meeting he had last week was positive.
“They were agreeable. They have some buses we can purchase, and I was told they had some new busses coming in and maybe we could buy one of them. Some drivers might be laid off, and we could get us a driver, too. But this all has to go before the school board for approval,” Dowdell said.
He suggested to the people who came to the commission meeting to support funding the shuttle come to the school board meeting to lobby them for a bus.
The shuttle serves only the city of Quincy and does not go beyond the urban services area. County Commissioner Sherrie Taylor has
contended that county citizens who need to access services in Quincy use the shuttle as well as those who live in Quincy. The shuttle, she said, is needed and the county should take the lead in providing transportation not only to Quincy but to other municipalities in the county.
“Every citizen in the county at some point in time has to come to Quincy,” she said.
Taylor said she had meetings with Quincy’s city manager and the city plans to embark on a promotional campaign to increase shuttle ridership. If the ridership rises in the coming months, the increase in fare will have a positive impact on the finances of the shuttle.
“Since there were so many churches represented here tonight (Taylor said she made four telephone calls and had five churches represented and citizens from every district in the city present), that’s a place for us to start,” Dowdell said.