New life for Georgia rural transit bill?

A bill that would boost mass transit in rural Georgia failed to clear the General Assembly last spring. But it may find new life in 2020.

On Tuesday Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, told a crowd in Kingsland that he's been negotiating with the Georgia Department of Transportation about House Bill 511, which could lay the groundwork for transit expansion across Georgia — much like similar legislation did last year for metro Atlanta.

HB 511 could provide millions of dollars for transit by dedicating the state sales tax on rides for hire to transit. It also would divide Georgia outside of metro Atlanta into eight zones for the purposes of transit funding and planning.

The bill passed the state House of Representatives, but it stalled in the Senate Transportation Committee. Efforts to combine the rural transit measure with others dealing with oversight of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and a jet-fuel tax break also went nowhere in the Senate.

GDOT was one of the chief critics of HB 511, objecting to provisions that would consolidate state transit operations in a single new agency, the Georgia Department of Mobility and Innovation.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the House Rural Development Council in Kingsland, Tanner suggested the agency’s objections will be addressed, though he did not provide details.

“I’ve been working with GDOT in the off-session,” Tanner told the council. “We’re very close to a piece of legislation that I think they can support.”

When an agreement is struck, Tanner said he’ll offer a substitute bill.

HB 511 is an attempt to address the lack of transportation options for workers, senior citizens and others in rural Georgia. You can learn more about the issues facing some rural residents here.