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Supporting Employment Transportation in Southern Georgia

Project #: 4W9550
Start Date: 01/01/2022
End Date: 09/15/2023
Status: Completed

The Southern Georgia Regional Commission (SGRC) is a regional planning agency that conducts economic development, regional transportation and environmental planning, local government services, aging programs, workforce development, geographic information systems (GIS), and other services for an eighteen-county region. The region includes Atkinson, Bacon, Ben Hill, Berrien, Brantley, Brooks, Charlton, Clinch, Coffee, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Lanier, Lowndes, Pierce, Tift, Turner, and Ware Counties.

Within its rural regional transportation program, SGRC develops rural transit development plans (TDPs) under contract to the Georgia Department of Transportation. SGRC also administers coordinated human services transportation for clients of agencies within Georgia’s Department of Human Services. In the summer of 2021, SGRC began to operate rural public transit services on a regional basis called SGRC Regional Transit, providing a mobility option for 15 of the 18 counties in the region.

One of the region’s goals in establishing region-wide rural public transit is to address economic development, including providing mobility to existing and potential employment sites. The region’s 2020 update to the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) notes: “While some growth has been experienced within the region, persistent poverty, underemployment, and unemployment continue to plague the area.” Several goals and strategies in the CEDS relate to these issues of addressing poverty and employment. These include encouraging the establishment of transportation systems and facilities that support residents and visitors to broaden mobility options. In addition, some employers have already begun transportation services at their own expense. Others, including food processing businesses, have expressed to area workforce development and economic development professionals that they could create additional jobs if they had access to additional workers.

Establishing SGRC Regional Transit has helped to improve mobility and address transportation needs in the region, however, SGRC expressed interest in expanding transportation to include employment-specific services to better connect residents who need jobs with affordable and reliable transportation to work. Upon a kickoff meeting with SGRC, an interest in vanpool services was conveyed as this type of service would provide direct connections to employment and allow SGRC to potentially contract with a third-party provider.

The National Association of Development Organizations Research Foundation (NADORF) Team worked in cooperation with SGRC to examine the need for employment transportation services in the region, focusing on vanpools.  A demographic analysis of the SGRC area was completed as well as a literature review focusing on rural vanpools, outreach to regional employers and interested stakeholders, and case studies were developed highlighting lessons learned from five vanpool programs across the United States. Based on findings from these research efforts, recommendations were made to SGRC on pursuing vanpool opportunities for the region.

Graphic with van on rural road with a map showing destinations of homes, factories and offices