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Wednesday, Sep 22, 2021

New buses a possibility down the road

The cones are gone. The new asphalt is smooth. Dark.

A stretch of Mercer University Drive was under construction this summer as part of the Second Street Corridor project, a Macon-Bibb initiative that is working to make it easier to come downtown.

The first few legs of that process have been completed. On one section of Second Street, there is a vision block that was completed last winter, with infrastructure innovations like reverse angle parking, green space and increased sidewalk space.

The next phase, which connected Richard Penniman Boulevard with Second Street, was completed August 20. It’s designed to make it easier to go downtown for those who are traveling north on I-75 or are driving from west Macon.

Yet, all of this doesn’t really affect students at Mercer who don’t have a car. But one part of this plan could be a potential transit option for students in the future.

In earlier talks about the Second Street Corridor, a fixed public transportation line was proposed.

“Either a trolley, streetcar, electric bus,” said Macon-Bibb Mayor Robert Reichert in an Telegraph article published in December 2014. “But the main thing is to make [the Second Street Corridor] green, sustainable, pedestrian friendly, retail friendly, conducive to walking and outdoor restaurants.”

Since that article was written, plans have shifted a bit. The initial idea, Stanley Dunlap at the Telegraph reported, was to have a trolley line. That was going to be expensive. Now, Macon-Bibb is opting for electric buses.

This fleet of five electric buses and a charging station would cost approximately $8 million. Macon-Bibb is applying for grants to cover that cost.

The vehicles, the Telegraph reported, would be equipped with Wi-Fi and would provide “educational” tours stretching to Middle Georgia State University.

“We moved away from the trolley idea, because we can expand that transit system quicker for less money,” Chris Floore, spokesman for the mayor, told the Telegraph.

So there may be more buses down the road. Questions remain as to whether or not the system would be used for tours only.

In the meantime, students without cars on campus do have a variety of options when it comes to getting around town, including buses, shuttles and bikes.

The distance one can go depends largely on the mode they choose. The Macon Transit Authority (MTA) can take students the farthest, but takes requires planning ahead and a long time on the commute itself.

A more limited route is provided on an MTA bus dedicated solely to transporting Mercer students. The shuttle takes students to Cherry Street on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and offers a series of trips to the shopping center on Zebulon Road every Wednesday night.

If students would rather forego the bus, there’s also the possibility of renting Bear Bikes. These bikes can be rented for the semester and come with safety equipment so that students are safe riding them and can feel safe leaving them in a rack.

Whatever option students pick, there are ways to access different aspects of Macon -- and if all goes as planned, there may be even more possibilities down the line.


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