Jason Warren

Jason Warren

The Catoosa County Trans-Aid Department recently re-upped its annual services contract with Transit Alliance Group, and all upgraded its system to include GPS and mobile data upgrades on its buses.

During its most recent meeting on Oct. 17, the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved both Trans-Aid items per the request of Director Jason Warren.

Warren says the 2018 Human Services Transportation Subcontract renewal with Transit Alliance Group will pay the county $54,000 for its work in transporting senior citizens.

"Each year the contract goes out to different counties' transit to transport seniors to the senior centers in respective counties for nutrition programs," Warren said. "The FY 18 contract pays us roughly $6 a passenger per trip, and the total estimated value of this contract is $54,000 that the county will receive for services provided."

Warren also pitched mobile upgrades to how the Trans-Aid Department runs its buses.

"Routematch is the software that the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) requires all transit agencies to utilize in order to schedule, track how many people we've transported. It has all of our data about addresses, who lives where. Everything we use goes through the software," Warren said. "It's a free service, the state requires it, but they also pay for it."

In addition to the standard usage, Warren says the mobile package also offered by Routematch will make the department's job flow more efficiently.

"Routematch does have additional packages you can buy, one of which is a mobile package that basically puts a tablet in each one of our buses," Warren said. "It does multiple things. One of the first things it does is significantly reduce the amount of paperwork. Right now we print out a packet of addresses, times, and everything for each individual driver. They then fill out the paperwork, they come back and we have to transpose that data into the computer system. It's a repeating effort."

Warren says the tablet will offer GPS, something Trans-Aid buses haven't used in the past.

"It'll save paperwork, it reduces the number of errors, it can do instantaneous updates. ... If someone cancels, we can do it right on the system right then," Warren said. "The biggest advantage it gives us is that this will be the first time drivers will have GPS system in their vehicle. Right now, to get from place to place, they have to look up where they're going ahead of time, which leads to mistakes. The mobile system will actually give us turn-by-turn directions all the way there, so it'll reduce the amount of errors, the amount of gas we're spending, and it'll keep us from being late."

Warren says Dade County, Whitfield County, and the city of Rome all currently use a version of the software.

"The cost of the upgrade is $8,879 for the first year, and then $8,544 the following two years," Warren said.

Warren added that there won't be an increase in the Trans-Aid budget, as money from a separate line item can be moved to accommodate the funding.

Commissioner Jim Cutler pointed out the there is also a transportation grant involved with the project.

"Since this is a 50/50 grant, our actual cost is only about $5,400," Cutler said.

Adam Cook is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He has been a reporter since 2009. He can be reached at The Catoosa County News office at 706-935-2621 and by email at acook@npco.com.