By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Tupelo public transportation advocates advanced another step Thursday toward a shuttle system rolling through the city.
City officials and volunteers discussed final details for specifications Tupelo will request of businesses interested in providing transit service. Two volunteers, Jim Casey and Jim Newman, will discuss a request for proposals to the City Council during a work session Tuesday. The men will ask the city to approve plans to advertise and solicit public transit requests for proposals.
The City Council will hear an update from the public transit volunteer committee at Tuesday’s work session.
Casey has waited at least four years for a chance to persuade the full council to support a pilot program intended to enhance quality of life for many residents and visitors.
Tupelo’s council funded a $25,000 transportation study in 2010 but never advanced beyond commissioning the plan.
“We’re ecstatic,” he said Thursday. “We’ve never been at this stage before.”
City transportation committee members will request detailed proposals for both fixed-route and flex-route systems. Fixed routes involve traditional paths shuttles travel to pick up and deliver riders. A flex route has specific locations where it will stop but also can take riders to areas within specified zones in different parts of the city.
City Council President Nettie Davis, Willie Jennings of Ward 7 and Buddy Palmer of Ward 5 publicly support a pilot project, requiring at least one other council member’s support for a majority.
If the council supports plans to solicit proposals from businesses, city officials would receive them in March and could potentially set a vote to proceed on the pilot system in April.
Shelton campaigned on exploring opportunities for public transit before taking office in July. City leaders have since organized meetings with residents and representatives with Mississippi’s Department of Transportation and the state chapter of the AARP, along with local and regional nonprofits and cab companies.