By Errol Castens
OXFORD – Oxford honored the former mayor credited as the visionary for the community’s bus service by naming its new transit headquarters after him.
Officials from the city, the University of Mississippi and the Mississippi Department of Transportation joined riders and supporters of the system to dedicate the Richard C. Howorth Oxford University Transit Operations and Maintenance Facility.
The system, known as “OUT,” opened in 2008 with two routes. Today, its greatest success is with university commuters.
“Public transit not only reduces travel by automobile and provides transportation to those without vehicles, but it’s also good for the local economy,” said City Planner Tim Akers. “Every dollar invested in transit generates four dollars in returns.”
Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert called Oxford-University Transit “one of the benchmark public transit systems in our state.”
MDOT Director of Intermodal Planning Charles Carr congratulated Howorth for the “strategic vision” that OUT embodies, noting that public transit is a growing phenomenon nationwide.
Mayor Pat Patterson lauded Howorth and Akers as visionary and quarterback, respectively, of the transit system’s creation. Noting that the system served more than 130,000 riders in October, he said, “OUT is exemplary of government at its best, efficient service for its citizens.”
Howorth deflected praise, noting that the Vision 2020 plan compiled under his predecessor, Pat Lamar, had identified transit as a community need.
Howorth said a friend had joked that his predecessors as mayor had had a tennis center and park named after them, respectively, “and you got a bus barn.”
He defended the choice, calling public transit “civic and integral.”
“Its success says something truly special about us as a community,” he said.
Howorth encouraging use of the transit system.
“Thank you,” he told well-wishers. “Now, get on OUT!”