The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission discussed safety on public transport during COVID-19, illegal trash dumping and litter in homeless camps in a livestreamed Tuesday work session.
ACC Transit Director Butch McDuffie discussed challenges the transit department faced before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Issues with buses arriving on time, adequate staffing, bus driver safety and a decrease in ridership plague the public transit system, McDuffie said.
Ridership of ACC Transit has dropped due to COVID-19, but it was already low before the pandemic began. McDuffie said ridership dropped by over 40% since 2015, leading to a loss in revenue. He cited the expansion of the University of Georgia’s transit system, frequency of ACC Transit buses and the use of ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft as reasons why less people are using public transit.
District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link asked about the legality of creating a motor vehicle registration fee that would help fund the public transit system. District 8 Commissioner Andy Herod asked Mayor Kelly Girtz to reach out to neighboring municipalities and offer to expand the transit service outside of the county to provide more funding. Girtz said he was interested in the idea of reaching out to Watkinsville or Oconee County.
McDuffie also discussed measures the transit system is taking to ensure public safety on the buses amid COVID-19. Bus fares will be reinstituted July 15. The drivers will accept cash but will not give change back. Drivers will also be wearing a face mask and have access to face shields and rubber gloves. There is also a plexiglass barrier between the driver and the fare box.
The drivers have also been enforcing the county-wide mask ordinance, McDuffie said. He said three individuals were denied service on a bus on Tuesday after they refused to put masks on. McDuffie said there are masks at the Multimodal Center and on ACC buses.
Executive director of Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful Stacee Farrell discussed litter initiatives and requested surveillance cameras be placed in known illegal dumping areas — areas that aren’t licensed to receive waste but where trash is dumped. District 7 Commissioner Russell Edwards voiced his support for the use of wildlife cameras around known illegal dumping sites.
Farrell also discussed the cleanup of homeless camps. She mentioned that Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful and ACC’s Solid Waste Department and helped the land owners clean up the Chase Street homeless camp in March. District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson asked that the county provide garbage cans near homeless camps to reduce the litter in those areas.
The litter control contract with the Georgia Department of Transportation that uses inmate labor for litter pick-ups along state routes has been put on hold. Farrell said that this will result in less litter clean-ups in ACC.
Link suggested approaching UGA fraternity houses to aid in litter clean-up since they are the areas in her district she gets the most complaints about and they often need community service hours.