METRA offers free rides on Saturday to test new routes

COLUMBUS, Ga- It’s not necessarily true that you never get a free ride—at least not with Columbus’s METRA bus system Saturday. To celebrate the launch of its upcoming service upgrades, riders were treated to free rides all day Saturday.

A blessing—that’s how Shaquaile Smith describes METRA’s free fare day.

“As far as getting to interviews, getting to jobs, trying to get to the library, or everything, it really is a true blessing,  because it it was for God and y’all doing this free bus ride, people wouldn’t make it around this way,” says Smith.

Willie Harris rides the bus. He appreciates the free rides, but he is concerned about the new routes.

“I don’t think a lot of them was well-thought through,” says Harris.

Harris says he’s not opposed to change. But he’s concerned about new routes that require riders to wait for buses on busy streets without sidewalks.

“The complaint is you cut the buses out coming down side streets where people are not driving real crazy to put them on a street with no sidewalk where people are driving crazy, “ says Harris.

METRA Director Rosa Evans says the city recognizes and cares about concerns such as Harris’s.

“The city is making improvements on sidewalks and that is one of things that will be on-going,” says Evans.

Saturday was just a test for the new routes which take effect at the end of the month. But another important change that comes with the new routes is that buses will run until 11:30 at night.

“That is really big, the best thing ever because people are now able to get to work. Third shift workers can now get to work,” says Evans.

Evans adds additional routes offer riders more options.

The upgrades to METRA’s service are made possible by the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax – or TSPLOST.  Voters approved the tax in 2014. An estimated $22.4 million of it is allocated for public transportation.

The new routes go into effect on Halloween.

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