When working with our webmaster to redesign the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority’s (MTA) website, I asked for a space where I could talk directly to our riders and to the people in our community. I’m a journalist. I’ve spent my journalism career bouncing between electronic media: radio (co-host, host & news anchor), television (host, reporter & news anchor), and print (newspaper & magazine writing), so by nature, I’m focused on reporting MTA news. But in addition to reporting MTA news, I wanted a place to provide insight on the inner workings of the MTA and on our team, and to share ideas about public transportation in Macon, Georgia.
Our new site mta-macon.com has been up and running for a couple of months and I love our fresh new look — big, bold photos and concise, important information readily available with a click or two or three. Today, we added a new system map to the site, with thanks to Mike Greenwald of Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission for its creation. The map is readily available in the center of the site under ROUTES, and also, can be accessed from the banner at the top of the site by clicking on RIDE and then, SYSTEM MAP. While most people ride only a few of our nine routes, the new SYSTEM MAP puts all of our routes in perspective. And, if you want to know exactly where we go on each route and the time each bus arrives, click on RIDE on the banner at the top of the site and then on SCHEDULES — and BAM! At your fingertips you’ll find every stop on every route. Not only that — you’ll find our WEEKDAY SCHEDULE and our SATURDAY SCHEDULE, which differ.
I’m launching the PIO Blog in the midst of a crisis, the likes of which our community, state and nation hasn’t experienced in living memory. This is uncharted territory for citizens and for leadership. At the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority we’re feeling the weight of that responsibility every day — how to best serve the citizens of Macon-Bibb County while ensuring that public transit in our community is as safe and sanitary as possible.
That brings me to a comment on our Facebook page criticizing the MTA for continuing to operate our buses while we’re battling COVID-19. Truly, the MTA CEO, Craig Ross, and the entire staff understands the comment, and while I know that no good comes from a war of words on the internet, I wanted to share my response on this blog page to offer the writer, our riders, and readers of our Facebook page and of this blog our perspective. Here goes:
“We understand and share your concern. Bus riding at this time, isn’t for everyone. But, for many people, public transportation is a lifeline – to dialysis, doctor appointments, grocery shopping and to the pharmacy for medication – even more crucial now during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. The MTA takes responsibility for “keeping Macon moving” seriously and are taking as many precautions as we can under dire circumstances.
The MTA created a 10-POINT PLAN – new (temporary) policies from Monday, March 23 through Saturday, April 11, operating Monday – Saturday, like usual, but on our Saturday schedule from 5:20 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Our CEO, Craig Ross, and the MTA administrative team are monitoring and continually assessing the plan, which includes FREE bus rides for everyone, with the stipulation that every person submits to a temperature check with a non-invasive electronic thermometer before being allowed to board a bus.
The Transfer Station and public restrooms are locked. However, our dispatch supervisors are on duty to answer questions and provide guidance. The One-Trip Rule is in effect on Fixed Route buses and continuous riding is monitored and strictly prohibited. Young people under 18 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian or person at least 18-years-old. Paratransit is operating for medical necessity ONLY (dialysis, doctor appts., grocery & pharmacy runs), and Paratransit riders still must call to schedule trips (478) 803-2521, and submit to a temperature check.
Safety precautions include a continuation of the sanitizing and disinfecting the MTA implemented weeks ago. Each bus is sanitized after every route, and every night, each bus is sanitized using a high-powered electrostatic spray. Additionally, the MTA has implemented rear boarding and disembarking and placed caution tape between our drivers and passengers. We appreciate the hard work of the entire MTA team, particularly our dispatch supervisors and drivers, during this difficult time. More information: mta-mac.com or (478) 803-2504/803-2505.“
As I said, riding public transit during this time doesn’t suit everyone, but at the MTA, our point is, if people need public transportation at this time, we’re here for them. All decisions in the time of a pandemic are weighty, difficult and complicated, but as my mother always said while she and my father were raising my sister and me, “We’re doing the best we can at the time with the information we have. Time may prove us wrong, but we think we’re doing our best at the time we make decisions.”
That same simple explanation guides our decisions everyday at the MTA, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that every person on our administrative team cares deeply about transporting the citizens of Macon-Bibb County in the safest, most efficient way possible every day that we operate, not just during a pandemic, and we take seriously our role collectively in KEEPING MACON MOVING.”
TOKEN TRANSIT makes purchasing bus tickets easy. Riders simply download the app and upload payment to purchase MTA bus tickets. When boarding a MTA bus, riders show the driver their cell phone displaying the daily image/color combination and they’re ready to ride.
Friday, March 27 – IT’S CHERRY BLOSSOM TIME in MACON, GEORGIA DURING the COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Literally, days before the kick-off of Macon’s highly anticipated 2020 Cherry Blossom Festival (CBF), Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority was set to introduce an innovation for TOKEN TRANSIT, our new mobile ticketing app which we launched on February 3.
Rather than a daily image/color, I asked the founder of San Francisco-based TOKEN TRANSIT if MTA could have a permanent, signature image/color. He agreed, making Macon the FIRST of more than two-dozen TOKEN TRANSIT cities nationwide with its own signature mobile ticket!
On March 16, MTA’s TOKEN TRANSIT permanent image became a cluster of Macon’s iconic cherry blossoms on a cherry blossom pink background — in the web design/digital world, hex color #FFB7C5.
I was excited at the prospect of promoting MTA’s nod to the renowned CBF, but with the organizers cancelling this year’s festivities as the COVID-19 pandemic began its creep into Macon-Bibb County , such a lighthearted release felt wrong, so we tabled the promotion.
Now, with the kick-off of the VIRTUAL CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL EXPERIENCE, and a request by CBF president Stacy Moore to share MTA’s tribute to the beloved festival, MTA PRESENTS TOKEN TRANSIT CHERRY BLOSSOM STYLE! Visit the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority’s Facebook page to see our new TOKEN TRANSIT image!
In addition to providing Macon-Bibb citizens with public transit, the MTA is proud to partner with an array of local organizations for community betterment and enhancement. Our new, signature TOKEN TRANSIT image replete with cherry blossoms is just one example.