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BOLIVIA— If Brunswick County ever offers mass transit, it will start with learning what are the transportation needs.
On Feb. 6, the Cape Fear Council of Governments brought several interested organizations together to find that out.
Members of Brunswick County’s Department of Social Services, Brunswick Senior Resources, Inc., emergency services, and representatives from Brunswick Community College and aid organizations like Brunswick Family Assistance attended the meeting to point out the transportation needs of the county’s seniors, college students, low-income families and homeless residents.
They met with Don Eggert of the Cape Fear COG, Ken Baker of the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Yvonne Hatcher of Brunswick Transit System.
Eggert said a local coordinated transportation plan was created in 2009, but never reached the top of the DOT priority list to institute any programs.
On Wednesday, the group that attended the workshop updated the list to prioritize needs they consider unmet.
One of the questions asked at the start of the meeting was what services are currently available?
The only transit services available in Brunswick County are Wave Transit loop from Wilmington to Leland, cab services and the Brunswick Transit System (BTS).
Hatcher, BTS executive director, said the non-profit organization offers bus or van transportation, but only by reservation.
The rides cost $3 per trip–one way–in Brunswick County. They offer a ride to Wilmington for $5 each way, but only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Reservations must be received 48 hours ahead of time because BTS tailors each day’s routes to the requests received.
There are no fixed transportation routes; the closest they come is the somewhat routine pickups for students at Brunswick Community College and trips to the Senior Centers in Shallotte, Southport and Leland.
Eggert asked each person in attendance to name his or her most important transportation need in Brunswick County.
After receiving ideas from the two-dozen people in attendance, everyone voted on which idea was the highest priority.
The top needs proposed by the workshop members were:
· Creating bus routes for the public with an easily accessible schedule,
· Providing non-emergency medical transportation, for customers who need to go to a medical appointment at UNC or Duke Hospital.
· Creating a comprehensive transportation study plan, including detailed proposals with maps of areas covered and estimated costs of the services. The last plan that looked at all of Brunswick County’s transportation needs was created in 1989.
Several other ideas were presented by the groups that attended the meeting, which included creating a transportation hub, offering short notice transportation, more off-hour (after 5 p.m.) and weekend transportation, and a free or reduced rate system for seniors and low-income residents.
Eggert was asked if the group comes up with the right plan for the right needs, would it bring in grant money for Brunswick County?
“We’ve got to identify needs before applying for a grant,” Eggert said.
He said updating the transportation plan shows the DOT what the needs are in Brunswick County.
Before BTS or WAVE or any private transit provider who might be interested in working in Brunswick County can apply for grant funding, DOT must have the need they are addressing listed on the plan.
Part of the process DOT wants to see is collaboration between different agencies to create the transportation plan, Baker said.
That brought the various organizations together Wednesday.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.