Although Americans – particularly in the South – maintain their love affair with private vehicles, more and more base workers are taking advantage of mass transportation along with car and van pooling.
Monthly commuter ridership on buses operated by the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority or MTA has grown from 214 when the program began in December 2010 to more than 1,000 in August and September of this year. Car and van poolers have increased from 653 to 898.
Pugh, deputy director of the 78th Mission Support Group at Robins, is encouraged by what he sees.
“Our daily mass transit traffic fluctuates from 40 to 51 passengers,” he said. “So it’s hit or miss, but that’s the beauty of the program. It gives employees the flexibility to ride or not ride. With carpooling, workers have the convenience of their vehicle and the benefits of riding with one or two others.”
MTA operates three buses each work day into Robins with each bus making eight trips in the morning and a similar number in the afternoon. The buses depart the Hutchings Career Center on Riverside Drive in Macon beginning at 5:45 a.m. and return to that location from Robins beginning at 2 p.m.
On base, the buses make ten stops, focusing on the flight line area and the heavily populated buildings of 300, 301, 640 and 645.
A major incentive for workers – particularly with gas prices near $4.00 per gallon – is cost. The Buses Into Robins Daily or BIRD program is essentially free for employees if they enroll in the Transportation Incentive Program. BIRD transport costs $6 round trip daily but the TIP program will reimburse riders up to $125 per month.
“So it’s full reimbursement for workers who ride the BIRD,” Pugh pointed out. “It’s a matter of enrolling and getting the paperwork processed. All active duty military and civilian workers are eligible.”
Car and van poolers are eligible for incentives offered by the Clean Air Campaign. New registrants can earn up to $3.00 per day and a maximum of $100 per month. Existing enrollees are eligible for gas cards and certificates.
“I’m enrolled in the car pool portion,” Pugh indicated. “I ride with my wife and occasionally I receive a $25 gift card from CAC.”
A recent Warner Robins Area Transportation Study could open even more options for Robins workers. Almost 400 responded to a recent call for input from Atlanta-based CTG, an agency hired by the city of Warner Robins to conduct the review.
Among the public transportation options included in the study are two that would benefit workers at Robins. One would be a Byron, Centerville, Robins express route that would carry passengers down Watson Boulevard in Warner Robins directly onto the base. Another would run from Lake Joy Road to Ga. 96 and Ga. 247 then into Robins.
“The study was completed in September,” Pugh said, “and a proposed implementation plan was released in mid-October for 30-day review and comment by the public.”
According to a notice on the City of Warner Robins web page, the draft document is available for review in the transportation planner’s office at City Hall or electronically on the city’s web page at www.wrga.gov. The review period ends Nov. 8.
Pugh is uncertain how that process will turn out.
“It will depend on interest, budgets and local partnerships,” he said. “Local community leaders will make a decision on which routes to select.”
One thing Pugh is sure of is the benefit of mass transportation for workers and the base.
“It benefits workers both in reimbursements and wear and tear on their vehicles,” he said. “As for the base, it helps us maintain clean air quality standards and reduce traffic and parking congestion.”