By DEBORAH BAYLISS firstname.lastname@example.org
Exploring options for a public transit system in Brunswick is not a new development. Ideas have been tossed about for years.
College of Coastal Georgia students are now getting involved and recently conducted a survey of the student body.
"I got involved with having the students conduct the survey after asking (Brunswick) mayor (Cornell Harvey) the question why there was no public transportation system here," said Sharon Sellers-Clark, assistant professor of education and director of field experiences, certification, data management and outreach at College of Coastal Georgia.
She will present the results of the week-long, online survey, taken by the students in December last year, during a 5:30 p.m. Brunswick City Commission work session on Wednesday.
"My presentation basically, is on the findings from the survey my students conducted for my class on interdisciplinary research methods," Sellers-Clark said Monday. "They had to do their own research study. It was a diverse group of students from various programs including nursing, education, business and communications. They had to conduct a review on their specific area."
For instance, the review from the nursing program students showed public transportation ties into maintaining wellness because people needed to be able to get to their doctor and also get their medication.
"After the reviews, we drafted questions on what reason CCGA students would use public transit," Sellers-Clark said. "Some students said they wanted to be able to go St. Simons Island, First Friday and would use the public transit to get to work."
Some of the students who did not see a need for a public transit system, have their own cars, Sellers-Clark said.
One of the questions that ended up in the survey was posed by — if public transportation was available, would you stay in Brunswick after graduating from college?
Sellers-Clark said most of the students answered yes to that question.
"It was difficult to get it all done in one semester," Sellers-Clark said. "I was really proud of the class. They came up with great questions. It was a great class."
Other community support for a public transportation system has been voiced social service agency representatives who have spoken out recently about what they say is a need for public transportation in Glynn County.
Agency representatives, agree that having a public transportation system is crucial to providing a way to get to and from work, it's also necessary since several schools are in outlying areas. Representatives feel also that public transportation help people find a way out of poverty.
The argument has also been made that having a system in place is vital to economic growth.
"How can Brunswick grow without a public transportation system," Sellers-Clark said. "I was pleased the mayor asked the question of students on whether they would stay in Brunswick after graduation if a public transportation system was here."
Several other studies also illustrate the need for a public transit system, the latest of which was in 2015, according to Allen Burns, executive director of the Coastal Regional Commission, which operates Coastal Regional Coaches. The rural public transit program, run by the Coastal Regional Commission, provides general public transportation service in 10 Coastal Georgia counties.
Harvey is vice chairman of the Brunswick Area Transportation Study, or BATS. He and Glynn County Manager Alan Ours, chairman of BATS, have been looking at the studies and considering options to make a public transit a reality.
According to Harvey, the issue previously was not enough ridership to support the system that was being proposed. He said a partnership with College of Coastal Georgia may be the way to go.
Burns estimates it would take somewhere around $1.2 million to implement a fixed-route, urban transit system locally, depending on the number of routes and other considerations. Because the system would serve a largely urbanized area, roughly $600,000 would likely come from the federal government through matching funds.