COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – The Columbus Consolidated Government is considering adding a new service to its existing transportation system, according to Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson. While Henderson spoke about the service in the context of veterans, METRA Director Rosa Evans said it wouldn’t exclusively be for veterans. Henderson said he had talked to a veteran who wasn’t eligible for the city’s Dial-A-Ride service.

“Because of federal regulations that have to be consistent across our entire route system, we can’t manipulate just for one person,” he said. “So what we’re looking at is our director of METRA and our city manager are working on a micro transit system we’ve seen in other areas. It works almost like an Uber. You have an app. You can get a ride scheduled, whether it’s a small vehicle. You don’t need a CDL driver. We just need somebody that can respond to those individuals.”

Henderson said the Columbus officials are talking with other cities that have such a transportation service in place.

“There’s two ways to do it,” he said. “One way is you contract with a turnkey service provider. We’re not real fired up about that because you don’t have control over being able to serve people. And the other is we create our own infrastructure. And that’s what we’re looking at right now.”

If created, the new transportation option will be housed under METRA.

“And this will allow us to be able to get folks to some of the locations like the clinic, grocery store, doctor’s office, any place,” Henderson said.

Columbus City Manager Isaiah Hugley stressed that the service, if approved by the mayor and council, will go through a pilot period, probably for two to three years, to see how it does. If it doesn’t perform well, it will be shut down.

Additionally, he stressed that the service wouldn’t be paid for with new taxes. Money for it would come from the existing Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

“In terms of how this service will be paid for, we have the 2012 Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that’s coming to a close at the end of this month,” he said. We still had roughly $7 million or $8 million left in that fund. Jan. 1, 2023 starts a new Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that will go for the next ten years. For METRA, we have $25 million available in that fund.”

Hugley said the service would be an opportunity to capture ridership that METRA might not otherwise capture.

He said that riders’ credit card information would be on file with the service as it would be with Uber or Lyft. Cash transactions wouldn’t take place with the service.