Microtransit possibility for downtown, current focus is improving bus system

Craig Ross with the Macon-Bibb Transit Authority says that while microtransit is a possibility for the future of downtown Macon, the current focus is on improving the city's bus system/Shannon Lilly (WGXA)

MACON, Ga. -- There's some concern in Macon about the congestion that downtown's growth is causing.

Geme Watson started the Facebook group "Macon Needs Rides" to help advocate for better transportation in the downtown area. He says that downtown wasn't built to handle the growth it's been experiencing and is worried that lack of action to address parking problems will stunt the area's growth in the future.

"People are having trouble finding parking. They're having trouble getting from parking to the venues, so on and so forth, that they want to attend, going to restaurants," he said.

Watson said that for many, downtown Macon's walkability is a great feature. However, for people who aren't able to walk as far, there's currently not an option for them. He said, "As you get older, your ability to walk distances varies."

Several years ago Watson started a contracted shuttle service for the downtown business Signature Salon and noticed that a lot of people started asking him for rides. This is what led him to advocate for microtransit in downtown Macon.

Watson says that microtransit would include electric micro-shuttles, or compact vehicles, that could easily maneuver downtown and transport people from their parking places to their destinations.

Craig Ross, President and CEO of the Macon-Bibb Transit Authority, says that microtransit is a very real possibility for the future of downtown Macon. Ross says that the issue isn't on their timeline right now but that it's reasonable to expect it to come up within the next few years.

The city's transit authority wants to run more studies on microtransit and how it would benefit Macon. Ross says that for now, their biggest priority is improving the current bus system as a whole - they'll soon be getting new buses and received a grant to purchase some electric ones.

The transit authority will also be installing better lighting and shelter at bus stops, and within a few months will have a mobile app for riders to see where their bus is in real time so that they won't have to stand in inclement weather. "This will keep the passenger from having to wait out in the cold or the rain, or the snow," Ross said.

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