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MPO ready to revisit transit plan

Planning group OKs funds, but may amend if structure changes

POSTED: April 18, 2013 12:15 a.m.

Despite Hall Area Transit’s uncertain future, an area transportation planning group recommended approval Wednesday of a document that calls for nearly $64,000 in transit planning money in fiscal 2013-14.

“Right now, the county and the city are revisiting the existing structure of Hall Area Transit,” said Srikanth Yamala, director of the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“Depending on the final outcome, we might have to come back and revisit this particular section (of the document).

“Of course, we can always amend” the MPO’s annual Unified Planning Work Program after July 1, the start of fiscal 2013-14, Yamala told the Technical Coordinating Committee, which comprises government officials, including city managers and engineers.

The Gainesville-Hall MPO serves as the area’s lead transportation planning agency.

The MPO’s work program describes various transportation activities and objectives, including long-range and short-range planning, and shows the funding breakdowns among federal, state and local governments.

In addition to the transit funding outlined in the document, “we have certain language talking about the fixed-route service,” said Yamala, also the county’s planning director.

Hall Area Transit’s fixed-route system is the Red Rabbit, which circulates mostly in the Gainesville area. It also operates a countywide curbside van service, Dial-A-Ride.

The transit system came under fire at last week’s Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting.

Commissioners Craig Lutz, Billy Powell and Scott Gibbs voted against seeking a Federal Transit Administration operations grant of $389,000, half of which would have gone toward Red Rabbit next fiscal year.

Chairman Richard Mecum and Commissioner Jeff Stowe were in favor of the grant.

“Fundamentally I think it’s time for restructuring, and I think I’ve made that case before,” Lutz said at the meeting. “I feel like it’s time to bring (the Hall County portion of Dial-A-Ride) in-house.”

The vote brought a different reaction the next day from Gainesville officials.

Mayor Danny Dunagan said he believes the city-county arrangement over the bus service “has been going on for close to 15 years ... and it’s worked just fine.”

The commission also directed Marty Nix, assistant county administrator, to set up meetings with Gainesville to discuss future operations.

The Unified Planning Work Program now goes before the MPO’s decision-making Policy Committee for a final vote. The committee is set to meet May 7 at the Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road.


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