Officials approve marketing plan for county bus transit service

WRAP DESIGN and bus sign design approved by the Walton County Board of County Commissioners for the planned county bus transit service.

By DOTTY NIST

Approval of marketing concepts has set the stage for Walton County’s planned bus transit system to be known as GoWal.

Following a marketing presentation on the system provided by a representative of Cribb Phillbeck Weaver Group, Inc. (CPWG)/BowStern, the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) unanimously approved the marketing concept. The presentation and approval took place at the June 9 BCC regular meeting at the Walton County Courthouse.

Jeremy Spinks of BowStern Marketing Communications provided the presentation. CPWG, in partnership with BowStern, had been awarded a contract for management and marketing of the transit system. The contract provides for marketing to be furnished for one year, to include building of a website, a logo and branding, media, and other services.

Spinks explained that the name was chosen to emphasize county unity and the idea that the system is for the whole county. He displayed designs for “wrapping” of the buses and for bus signs that will be placed on the roads at bus stops.

Spinks said that initially there is to be one route for the transit system (along U.S. 331), with plans for two additional routes in the future.

County Commissioner Chairman Bill Chapman asked if bus stop locations had been identified. Mac Carpenter, county planning and development services director, responded that the stops would be the Walton County Courthouse in DeFuniak Springs, in Freeport next to Freeport City Hall and at the county offices at Freeport Business Park, and at the South Walton Annex.

Spinks announced names for the three routes. The U.S. 331 route is to be known as “Jumper,” with a U.S. 98 route to be known as “Skipper,” and a beach route to be known as “Hopper.”

          The $849,497 state Department of Transportation (DOT) grant provided for the purchase of the buses and for initial operating expenses of the transit program during the first three years, with no matching funds being required from Walton County in connection with this grant funding.

Buses to be used in the program had been delivered at the end of February. Four were purchased, with three to be put into use for the transit system and the fourth to stay in reserve as a spare.

          The BCC had voted in 2016 to apply for the grant for purposes of addressing the issue of congestion and parking shortages associated with workers living north of the bay who commute to jobs in south Walton County. The program is also aimed at reducing unemployment among county residents who are unable to find jobs due to lack of transportation.

According to information provided at the April 28, 2020, BCC meeting, at which the contract with CWPG and BowStern was approved, the grant funding provided $41,873 per year for operation of the system for three years, with the contract cost exceeding that amount by $13,958 per year and the latter amount to be paid by the county. 

          Initial plans are for the transit program to be free of charge to riders for the first three years or longer.

The Herald/Breeze inquired regarding any COVID-19 safety measures planned to be put in place in connection with the transit service but has not received a response on this issue by press time.

Plans are for GoWal to roll out by the tentative date of June 29. It is possible that the buses will not be wrapped with the design by that date.