By John Schaffner
The board of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID) voted at its last public meeting to scale back the funding of Buckhead’s free shuttle service, the BUC, to a $600,000 budget, which means a revised core system of reduced service, according to CID Executive Director Scotty Greene.
“Getting to that number, with a revised core system—including revised routes—is what we have to accomplish with the current vendor, American Coach Lines, by August 13,” Greene added. “We have begun those discussions with American Coach Lines and we have some pretty good plans.”
He said the $600,000 budget per year for the next two years, represents a scaling back of the current $1.2 million system, which in turn was a scaling back from the previous $1.6 million system.
“But, it will be a good core commuter system, running around peak hours and lunchtime around the malls and the two MARTA stations,” Greene explained. “There will be gaps where the buses will not run—about a 90-minute gap in the morning and then a little gap in the afternoon before 4 p.m.”
He said, “service would be clustered around peak commuting hours and lunch and it would focus on the Peachtree core area (between Piedmont Road and the malls and MARTA stations) rather than have a longer run up Piedmont to Piedmont Center.”
Greene pointed out that the $600,000 would be funded “90 percent by the CID and 10 percent from some federal dollars for ridership reimbursements that we get and some sponsorships.
“The board gave us that direction and they also indicated that unless we could get a system that costs $600,000 a year over the next two years that we would have to seriously consider discontinuing it,” Greene stated. “So, we are hopeful that we can come to an agreement with American Coach on a revised plan.”
Greene, who runs the day-to-day operations of the CID and also BATMA, the organization that is responsible for the BUC shuttle service, said there had been discussions about MARTA operating or taking over the system. “The problem is that MARTA is not in the shuttle business. So the cost per hour is virtually the same as what we are paying now,” Greene explained. “The leverage of the Community Improvement District dollars doesn’t change. It stays very low. So, we are not very hopeful of working anything out with MARTA.”
In the final analysis, Greene stated, “It is all about money. Everybody likes these things, but somebody has to pay for them. Three mills of extra tax on the business community only goes so far,” he added.
However, striking a hopeful future note, Greene said, “I think the projected assessments for the next tax year (2008) is up to about $4 million. That is up from almost $3 million in 2007. That is a big jump.”