COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus city leaders are touting a huge upgrade to public transportation in the Fountain City. It’s an upgrade that could mean more folks getting back on their feet. METRA’s expanded service starts Monday. The mantra “more service, more routes, more buses” floated on a banner hanging on the METRA station on Linwood Blvd.
Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson thanked voters for pushing through the 2014 Transportation Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax, or TSPLOST.
“Folks, this is a really big deal today,” the mayor said before a ribbon cutting unveiling the reopening of the Columbus public transit system. “Because the citizens had faith in order to increase the sales tax, to tax themselves because they had faith in the value that was going to be returned on that investment.”
City Planning Director Rick Jones held up a penny, signifying the tax that allotted $22.4 million to the METRA expansion. The extra money paved the way for bus routes spanning from 4:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It also helps disabled senior citizen passengers like Shirley Walton.
“I take it to go to the doctor’s office, the drug store,” Walton said.
Walton has lived in Columbus for eight years, and she has relied on METRA to get around town for about five years. Columbus City Manager Isaiah Hugley also praised the Halloween reopening of the public transit station.
“We’re able to compete with other communities with this type of service,” Hugley said.
He mentioned several other similar projects that would be funded by the TSPLOST, including a renovated navigation path around the spider web on Buena Vista Rd. The city manager says there was opposition to the regional TSPLOST measures. Nine other regions shot the proposal down. But in his mind, Columbus needed the tax in order to grow as a city. He predicts more people from outlying areas will be able to take advantage of Columbus’s expanded public transit service.
Hugley says METRA is trying to attract more millennials by offering WiFi aboard city buses in the near future. To learn more about METRA’s expanded service, please click here.