Supporting Employment Transportation in Southern Georgia
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The Southern Georgia Regional Commission (SGRC) is a regional planning agency that conducts economic development, regional transportation and environmental planning, local government services, aging programs, workforce development, geographic information systems (GIS), and other services for an eighteen-county region. The region includes Atkinson, Bacon, Ben Hill, Berrien, Brantley, Brooks, Charlton, Clinch, Coffee, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Lanier, Lowndes, Pierce, Tift, Turner, and Ware Counties. Within its rural regional transportation program, SGRC develops rural transit development plans (TDPs) under contract to the Georgia Department of Transportation. SGRC also administers coordinated human services transportation for clients of agencies within Georgia’s Department of Human Services. In the summer of 2021, SGRC began to operate rural public transit services on a regional basis called SGRC Regional Transit, providing a mobility option for 15 of the 18 counties in the region. One of the region’s goals in establishing region-wide rural public transit is to address economic development, including providing mobility to existing and potential employment sites. The region’s 2020 update to the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) notes: “While some growth has been experienced within the region, persistent poverty, underemployment, and unemployment continue to plague the area.” Several goals and strategies in the CEDS relate to these issues of addressing poverty and employment. These include encouraging the establishment of transportation systems and facilities that support residents and visitors to broaden mobility options. In addition, some employers have already begun transportation services at their own expense. Others, including food processing business, have expressed to area workforce development and economic development professionals that they could create additional jobs if they had access to additional workers.
This work is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under a cooperative agreement. USDA is an equal opportunity provider. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funders. The researchers would like to express gratitude to the staff at the Southern Georgia Regional Commission. The authors would also like to thank Dan Currier of GoVermont, Joe Traina of Commute with Enterprise (Commuter Co-Op), Kari Ruse of GoNEWhere, Courtney Cherry of LowcountryGo, Lyn Hellegaard of MRTMA (iRide), Sarah Garth and Cheryl O’Connor both of Commute with Enterprise (Georgia) for sharing their time and experiences with vanpooling. Finally, the researchers would like to thank Dana May for technical editing and formatting, and Neil Hetherington for graphic design, both of the Western Transportation Institute.