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Possible new transit system in Valdosta

During a conference with VSU student journalists on Oct. 22, Mayor Scott Matheson discussed the possibility of a newer, cheaper public transit system in Valdosta.

Being a talk radio host, Matheson said he has been told by other mayors they will or will not accomplish a new transit system, but it never got done.

There was about a 10-year period when the city couldn’t be burdened by a new transit system, Matheson said.

“I understood why they weren’t pursuing it, but as I said all last year and the day I got sworn in, I was going to get it done,” Matheson said.

Valdosta does offer Uber and Lyft for transit currently however, for the 60,000 residents in Valdosta, this new transit system is aimed to be more affordable. According to Matheson, Uber and Lyft is another level of ride.

The new system would be run by a turn-key software. The safety of this software is assured by a call center which is believed to be in Texas or North Carolina.

At the call center, workers can see all vehicles in transit using a software that shows exactly where vehicles are at any time or day, according to Matheson.

Matheson said a federal grant for the urbanized area covers 80% of the cost for the new transit system.

“It was well over $1 million to operate a new transit system,” Matheson said.

According to Matheson, through selling fuel and advertising, this cost could be next to zero for the new transit system. As for the first year, Matheson is confident the transit system will be fully covered.

Because of COVID-19, there may only be two people picked up at a time in either cars or vans. Matheson said there is only one shot at a new transit system and this is not the best year due to the pandemic.

“It’s going to be a wonderful thing for the city of Valdosta,” Matheson said. “We’d like to be in this business forevermore.”

Dr. Ted Geltner, advisor for the Spectator, said he applauds the mayor for his support for an open government.

“This event is a great opportunity for VSU journalism students to experience actual working government,” he said. “Due to the pandemic, we conducted this press conference virtually, but it still offered students a chance to interact with an elected public official.”

According to Geltner, city government is something journalists should become familiar with.

Kaneathia Kendrick, a junior English major, said the conversation on public transportation was an important part of the conference.

“A lot of college students don’t have cars, and Uber and Lyft are kind of expensive, so it’d be very interesting to have a different alternative instead of the school bus that takes you to limited places,” Kendrick said

Story written by Jonnie Brewer, Assistant Copy editor. Photo courtesy of Bethany Davis, Managing Editor of Graphic Designs.

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