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CAT welcomes legislative support from Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce Banner

CAT welcomes legislative support from Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce

Chatham Area Transit officials are praising the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce’s decision to include two CAT funding priorities on the Chamber’s 2021 state legislative agenda.

The legislative priorities include support for legislation allowing individual counties, by referendum, to use a Transit Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TranSPLOST) to fund transit capital, operating and maintenance costs.

The voter-approved funding would help make CAT a model agency for transit systems across the country – especially since it leaves the decision up to individual counties rather than requiring regional support as past transit referendums have done, said CAT CEO Bacarra Mauldin.

“The needs of Chatham County are very unique with regards to all the counties around it,” Mauldin said. “We are strongly advocating to chart our own course in terms of transportation and mobility.”

In addition, the Chamber’s legislative agenda support’s CAT’s request for state funding to expand and enhance water ferry services along Savannah’s waterfront. The funding would help accommodate increased demand from hotel and residential development along the Savannah Riverwalk and from the planned expansion of the Savannah Convention Center on Hutchinson Island.

Planning for such growth needs to start early, since new ferry boats and docks can take years to construct, Mauldin said.

“It’s not like flipping a light switch,” she said. “You have to start these conversations today.”

The Chamber presented their legislative agenda on Dec. 3 during their annual Eggs & Issues Legislative breakfast at the Savannah Convention Center.

“As Chatham County and Coastal Georgia continues to add jobs, public transportation helps more Chatham Country residents reach their places of work, essentially expanding employers’ potential workforce,” said Bill Hubbard, president and CEO of the Savannah Area Chamber. “The Legislature should approve a TranSPLOST option where voters could decide, by referendum, to utilize the existing statute. Also, as the Savannah Convention Center and surrounding area on Hutchison Island expands further, the need to move more employees and meeting attendees across the river will require expanding the operations of the ferry system, another valuable component of Chatham Area Transit.”

The Chamber’s decision to support the funding priorities comes after CAT’s decision in October to postpone planned service changes, including the suspension of Sunday operations. The service changes were postponed until least February to allow CAT officials to engage in more conversations with key community stakeholders, such as the Chamber, about working collaboratively to support transit services.