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Transit expected to be big focus in next legislative session
Proposed is a regional authority that could cut down on route redundancy
State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville

Much has been said in past legislative sessions about fixing roads.

And while that’s expected to continue in 2018, lawmakers also are expected turn their attention to public transit — something that could have a direct bearing on Atlanta commuters from Hall County.

Particularly being considered is a regional transit authority that would help metro Atlanta transit providers, such as Gwinnett County Transit, which has a station off Interstate 985, with coordinating routes more efficiently.

“Everybody operates in their own silo and, when you’re talking about transit, you cannot just think about county lines,” said Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, chairman of the House Commission on Transit Governance & Funding, which has held public meetings throughout the state.

“You’ve got to think about how we’re going to move people across the whole region,” he said.

Tanner, also the House Transportation Committee chairman, said, “We have multiple different operators (driving) buses that are just passing each other on the road going to the same places, but all of them are being paid for … by federal dollars.

“With regional coordination of mobility, we can become much more efficient and effective.”

Many Hall residents use Gwinnett Transit to commute to Atlanta, and there has been discussion about how to improve the service.

“If we were to operate a commuter bus service, we would be most interested in coordinating with an existing community (service),” said Community Service Director Phillippa Lewis Moss, who oversees Hall Area Transit.

“There is a lot of redundancy in administrative activity and the movement of buses, and I’ve always been an advocate of combining resources when we can, so we can provide a more effective and efficient system for the residents.”

Hall Area Transit “has gotten more and more requests from people in South Hall for Dial-A-Ride and other public transit services — a departure from 10 years ago,” Moss said. “And I think part of that is because we have newcomers from states where public transit is the norm.

“So, when they come to (South Hall), they’re quite surprised and disappointed that we don’t have an all-encompassing service.”

Dial-A-Ride is a countywide curbside transportation service that requires reservations at least 48 hours before pickup. Hall Area Transit’s fixed-route bus service is Gainesville Connection, which is mostly confined to Gainesville and parts of Oakwood and unincorporated Hall County.

Earlier this year, Hall Area Transit rolled out a four-year plan to expand and improve public transit.

In November, Moss told Gainesville City Council that Hall Area Transit plans to seek $750,000 in federal funds, in large part to expand the service’s hours.

It’s the agency’s largest request in more than 10 years. Receiving the grant would require a matching $750,000 in local money, double the amount the city of Gainesville has previously provided.

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