Public transit group kicks off $25,000 Tupelo study

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – If done right, Tupelo could have a public bus system transporting 150,000 riders annually by the end of one year, a transit consultant told city officials Thursday.
Bob Bourne of Bourne Transit Consulting met with Mayor Jack Reed Jr., the City Council and other key stakeholders to kick off Tupelo’s public transportation study. Bourne said similar-sized municipalities – like Salina, Kansas – have successful bus systems with large riderships.
“If you do it right,” Bourne said, “you could be like Salina.”
Bourne is part of a team assembled by Neel-Schaffer, the Jackson-based company that won the city’s nearly $25,000 contract to head the study.
The study will examine Tupelo’s public transit needs, review its prior attempts at public transit, and look at how other similar-sized cities have successfully implemented a public transit system.
It will then offer three options for providing such services.
Also representing Neel-Schaffer at the day-long series of meetings were Paul Swindoll and Dyan Damron. They toured Tupelo, visited with community members, city employees and the five-member Public Transportation Committee.
It was the committee that launched the search for a study consultant and hand-picked Neel-Schaffer for the job.
Committee Chairman Brad Prewitt said that, despite the hefty cost, a community bus system is necessary for Tupelo and its residents.
“The question isn’t, ‘What’s this going to cost us?’” Prewitt said, “but ‘What’s this going to bring us?’”
He also challenged the perception that Tupelo didn’t need a bus system. Bourne agreed, saying he counted at least 20 people walking the streets in a two-hour period.
A public bus here would immediately attract a core group of riders, Bourne said, and within time, the city’s population would shift around bus routes. Eventually, he said, increasingly more people would use the system as it grew larger and more dependable.
“The goal is to create a desirable environment, and one of the keys to a great city is that its citizens need to be offered transportation,” Reed said. “I want to know, how do we intelligently and wisely provide the best system we can afford?”

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.