Seniors: ‘What about our needs?’

With all the talk about Fayette County’s road projects for the regional transportation sales tax list, momentum shifted briefly last week to address a critical need for the county’s future: transportation options for senior citizens.

At a public forum seeking input on the projects, one member of the audience suggested that some of the $43 million Fayette County and its cities will get if the tax is approved should be spent on expanding

the transportation program currently offered by the Fayette County Senior Services program.

County Public Works Director Phil Mallon said he thought that was a worthwhile idea to look at.

Charles Ware of the American Association of Retired Persons, said he was in favor of a proposed regional call center to match seniors with ride service providers in their area. He joked that the senior population “would like to be at the table, because we’re tired of being part of the menu.”

At this point, the local governments in Fayette County have not compiled a list of potential projects for that $43 million, which would be parceled out to each government over the 10-year length of the tax.

But Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele said one project his City Council is considering for that funding is the extension of LaFayette Avenue to Church Street, which would provide a new east-west thoroughfare in downtown Fayetteville. Steele said he too would like to see part of Fayette County’s $43 million go toward developing a public-private senior transportation system for Fayette County.

The median age of county residents is already at 48.3 years, and that figure is projected to climb in future years, Steele noted.

Although there are no transit projects planned for Fayette County as part of the $6.3 billion regional sales tax, about half of the funding will be spent on bus and rail projects elsewhere, which has drawn some local criticism.

Peachtree City resident Bob Ross said the MARTA transit system alone has a backlog of $1.2 billion in maintenance projects just for its existing lines. He also claimed that the tax would generate a subsidy equivalent to $2,000 for each MARTA rider, which he feels is unfair to those who don’t use the service.

Meanwhile, transit supporters have argued that with the growth of metro Atlanta expected to continue on a rate of dramatic increase, the region can’t afford not to have some form of transit solution in place. Metro Atlanta is projected to grow by about 3 million people over the next 20-25 years, bringing the area’s population to about 8 million.

Another citizen asked the panel of government officials about why the sales tax includes money for bus service in Clayton County even though it was shuttered last year because it cost too much. The reasoning, it turns out, is that Clayton officials on the 21-member regional transportation roundtable have identified that as one of the county’s top priorities.

There was also a question about the penalties that were built into the legislation authorizing the regional sales tax. If for some reason the sales tax is defeated in the 10-county metro Atlanta area, Fayette and the nine other counties will have to pay a 30 percent match to state funding for local transportation projects, opposed to the current 20 percent level.

If the sales tax passes, however, the local match will dip to 10 percent, officials said.

The project on the list with the potential for the largest impact on existing traffic experienced by Fayette commuters would make improvements to the interchange of Ga. Highway 74 North and Interstate 85, just across the Fulton County line in Fairburn.

Peachtree City also has two cart path projects on the funding list: one running from the new Flat Creek path bridge northward toward Crosstown Road connecting to a number of existing businesses in the industrial park and the other running under Ga. Highway 74 South at a new tunnel before going north towards other businesses in the industrial park and south toward the city’s Baseball and Soccer Complex.

Other projects on the list for regional funding include:

• Construction of both segments of the East Fayetteville Bypass;

• Widening Ga. Highway 85 from Grady Avenue in Fayetteville southward to Bernhard Road in unincorporated Fayette County;

• Widening of Ga. Highway 92 from Jimmie Mayfield Boulevard southward to McBride Road in unincorporated Fayette County;

• Operational improvements on Hwy. 85 South from Bernhard Road southward to Hwy. 74 South;

• A newly-proposed “connector” between Hwy. 92 and Ga. Highway 138 North to link Fulton and Fayette counties; and

• Operational improvements on Hwy. 92 northward from Hwy. 85 in Fayetteville to Oakley Industrial Boulevard in south Fulton County.

There is a move afoot to add one more Peachtree City project to the list: the extension of MacDuff Parkway from its current terminus to Ga. Highway 74 via Old Senoia Road. That move has not yet been finalized, but it will result in the city of Fayetteville removing one of its projects from the list: the realignment of Hwy. 92 and Hood Avenue in Fayetteville.

Fayette County is tabbed to get some $141.8 million in project funding plus another $45 million that can be spent on any local transportation project for a total return of $186.8 million. This figure does not include the $22.5 million planned for the I-85/Hwy. 74 interchange or any other project outside of Fayette County.

Regionwide the tax is projected to pull in more than $6 billion in revenue over its 10-year lifespan.

jmatute's picture
Joined: 11/23/2005
Transportation for Peachtree City

Speaking from experience, my suggestion to anyone who lives in Peachtree City, or Fayette County for that matter, if you want dependable public transport to get from one town to the other, from PTC to Atlanta and back, from PTC to the airport and back.....move. Move to some place that already has those amenities in place. At the present age level, you will all be gone before this happens in Fayette County. Nickel-dime talk about cab chits, and golf cart pooling gets you nowhere.

William Clinton
William Clinton's picture
Joined: 08/27/2009

We don't need MARTA. If Grandma needs to get around town- why don't we just subsidize local cab drivers to help out our seniors? It will be better than grandma driving their "scooter" to the bus stop. The cab drivers will show up at there house- take them to walleyworld, publix, etc.... Gov't- can't live with them, can't live without them... BUT Can Live with them not babying every aspect of our lives.

rmoc's picture
Joined: 03/22/2006
Cab Companies and Seniors

WC sounds like a good idea but I actually have experience in this. I was a dispatcher for a local cab company in a small town in Illinois..The town actually gave seniors a book of tickets to use for cab rides. We had a few complexes like Town Center in PTC in this town. Well, problem is Cab Drivers make money on 2 things volume and tips. We would have seniors call to have someone pick them up at the grocery store...this usually involved parking, walking in and finding the person, carrying their bags and then escorting them and their bags to their apartment...for a $2.50 fare and a quarter tip..this was in the early 80s..Well in the same 30 minutes I could take someone from their train to the southside of town for $15 or more or a 45 minute $30 trip to the airport..Guess what happened when seniors were calling especially at rush hours when there are plenty of folks at train stops and the airport..drivers disappeared..If the drivers were hourly that would be one thing but I do not think things have changed much in the world of taxicabs. They basically rent the car by the day or hour and need to watch the bottom line.

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Joined: 10/26/2005
Or maybe use vans to double as school buses

$41million plus the $21,000 per day we spend on mostly empty school buses. It starts to add up eventually. With a lot less money than that someone can run vans to pick up the few kids who still actually ride the buses, take them to and from school and shuttle the seniors around in between. Even with the extra stops in Clayton and Fulton to pick up the illegal students, that can be done for a lot less money. To start with we would need 10 vans and 10 drivers working M-F. A good used 15 passenger van costs about $21,000, so we would break even after 10 days and have more than enough to pay the drivers $10-12 per hour. If they were efficient 450 kids would be taken to school - way more than ride the buses now and probably 200 seniors shuttled to doctors and the store during school hours. $1200 per day for drivers, $1000 for gas, a little bit more for insurance - works out to be about 10% of what the school board spends on empty buses. You could probably cut that in half by charging the seniors half of a MARTA fare per trip. What;s MARTA cost now $1.50?

Another idea that would get rid of school buses completely is to pay teens to carpool on golf carts. Just like the Clean Air Initiative or some group like that is offering cash to carpooling Atlanta commuters. All those single occupancy golf carts are a real problem - inefficient and they pollute (the gas ones do). So why not pay each driver of a full cart a per person fee of $3 per day for gas carts, $5 for electric and get everyone to school that way. An efficient teen could make 3 trips to elementary and middle school before his own trip to high school with a six passenger electric cart that would be $100 per day - $500 per week! That would get 21 kids to various schools at a pretty low cost. Even if you need 1000 teen-driven carts doing multiple trips, the cost will still be less than half of the $21,000 per day we spend on mostly empty school buses. And I'll be a lot of the mommy in a van trips to school would be replaced by golf cart commuting.

Of course the city would want to make the teen get a business license and a special commercial golf cart registration and proof of insurance and child molester background check, maybe pass a driving test and of course tax the teen and his parents something because their tax revenues are down.

johenry's picture
Joined: 08/22/2006
Please stay away Ken Steele!

Thank you to the lady who exposed Mayor Steele's next expensive project after the worthless West Fayetteville Bypass.

If we're counting on Atlanta and MARTA to solve our problems, we're goners.

Like the other letter to the editor said about Mayor Steele = 20 years is enough!

BHH's picture
Joined: 02/11/2011
Why not ask your children or other relatives to help

with your needs instead of the government?

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