Savannah State University finds itself at the doorstep of a controversial decision following a board decision made on Tuesday, Aug. 27. The Chatham Area Transit service for route 12A between East Victory Drive and Savannah State University will be terminated on October 12.
Savannah State University will not be affected by the stoppage. Only those along the 12A route in Thunderbolt will be directly affected. After October 12, commuters will be expected to walk at least a mile before arriving at alternate routes or their destination. According to Nick Robertson at Savannah Morning News, the bus route has been in place since 1987.
CAT could not be reached at this time nor the board of the directors for a comment as to the impact on the community and ridership it would affect.
Initially, Chatham County assumed the responsibility of providing transportation for the community of Thunderbolt. Over the years since the 1987 board decision that addressed the Thunderbolt community, unnamed citizens of Chatham began making complaints. The main issue of these complaints besides visible low ridership was the “free ride” from Chatham Area Transit as Thunderbolt is not required to pay taxes for services provided--Chatham County has been footing the bill. In the past the county has made several requests that Thunderbolt merge with them. This merger would increase Thunderbolt’s tax rate by $100,000 overall, ensuring its residents continual access to CAT services. Thunderbolt has refused to be subject to Chatham County’s taxation, leading to more complaints by Chatham residents.
In a recent press release, Michael Brown, interim CEO and executive director of CAT, noted that the Georgia State Constitution prohibits continued bus line service. In order to continue receiving CAT services, Thunderbolt would have to become part of Chatham County. Ty Butler, a CAT attorney, oversaw the legality of the decision to cease operations with the State Constitution as he said that he found there was no further justification needed for the continuation of a much-needed means of transportation.
The Thunderbolt Council will meet again on September 11 to discuss the termination of the Thunderbolt route and to consider community feedback. Thunderbolt residents will be given the opportunity at the meeting to reconsider the offer to merge counties as it will require a complete tax cycle of eleven months before services can legally be reinstated.
Many Thunderbolt residents seemed resolute in their opinions about the loss of the bus route and how a change would influence their taxation saying that they would not be directly affected because they had adequate transportation but would willing to pay an increase in taxes if it would benefit students, the elderly, and the handicapped. Other individuals had questions about the services to other coastal residents.
“What about the people living in Tybee? Will their bus service end?” asked Rosa and Andrew Chiver.
James King, a substitute bus driver for CAT, said that he felt the ending of the route was unfair as he knew individuals who would have to walk in inclement weather in order to obtain alternate routes to work because of CAT’s decision.