Macon paratransit bus driver: ‘These people depend on us’

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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The Macon Transit Authority’s paratransit service is running as normal, despite recent adjustments to fixed routes.

If the county commission doesn’t approve a millage rate increase to reinstate funding to the MTA, paratransit could be affected.

The paratransit service is for people in the community who can’t use the fixed routes because they have disabilities.

Saketha Harris has been a paratransit driver for about 5 years. She says it’s more than just a job to her.

“When you leave your family in the morning, you’re coming to your new family, because these people are like family to us,” said Harris. “These people depend on us. They don’t have a ride to dialysis or where they need to go.”

On average 140 people a day depend on the paratransit service in Macon-Bibb County. Half of them, needing it for dialysis.

“Me and Mr. Hill have conversations have conversations every time I pick him up. He talks about his granddaughter that lives in Chicago,” said Harris.

Wesley Hill uses the paratransit service at least 3 times a week for his dialysis treatments.

“It’s convenient, it gives you independence, when you have to get somewhere, family’s not always around to take you,” said Hill.

Hill made more than just a trip to the doctor’s office, he’s made friendships.

“I started meeting people and started finding out, everybody had different health challenges that they were dealing with,” said Hill.

“Paratransit is critical to Macon Transit,” said Macon Transit Authority President, Craig Ross. He worries that the commission’s budget decisions could make it harder for people like Hill to get around.

“Paratranist has to run parallel with the regular fixed route operations,” said Ross.

MTA is currently running a fixed route after the commission defunded to the authority. The commission then reinstated funding, but the transit authority won’t see that money unless the commission decided to raise property taxes.

“But I am very confident that the we will prevail on this because all of the commissioners understand the importance of public transportation,” said Hill.

Hill and Harris both hope the service continues to run.

“It’s not just Mr. Hill is grateful for it, but it’s a lot of other clients that are too. Trust me, if you could have stayed a little longer, came a little earlier and rode with me, you would have had a whole mouthful,” said Hill.

Hill is also visually impaired. He’s met people who are as well, and joined a support group through the paratransit service.

Hill hopes people know how crucial this service is in this community. The commission is expected to vote on a tax increase in August.