MOULTRIE -- Just in time for the Sunbelt Expo, Colquitt County Transit opens to the public.

For weeks, the little buses usually parked at the Sunset Shopping Center have been transporting Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) clients, but now county and regional development officials announce the fleet is ready for public use.

Colquitt County is one of 11 systems that make up a regional rural transit program established to serve all of Southwest Georgia. A project of the Southwest Georgia Regional Development Center, the transit program was born out of the need for more effective and efficient transportation services for the public and private sectors and was made possible through the cooperation of The Georgia Department of Transportation, the DHR and the county.

Because of its large number of DHR clients, Colquitt County has the most transit units in its fleet. Southwest Georgia RDC purchased nine vehicles specifically for Colquitt County use.

The system is expected to perform 63,714 trips annually, of which 12,743 would be public use, RDC Transportation Planner Brad Sheffield said.

Colquitt County Transit's service provider is Destiny Tours of Albany.

Rates are $1 for a one-way trip from zero to four miles. Round-trip is $2. Trips five to 10 miles one-way are $3 -- round-trip $6. One-way trips from 11 to 30 miles are $5 -- round-trip $10.

Drivers do not carry money, so correct fare is a requirement.

Senior citizens are entitled to a 50-percent discount. Frequent riders, those who take 10 or more trips within a seven-day period, are also eligible for half-price fares.

Aggressive planning is under way to better identify needs, adjust rates based on those needs and plan for future expansion, Sheffield said.

Currently, hours of operation are from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. To schedule a ride, one must call 985-1666 by 3 p.m. the day prior to service.

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