Transit group hears from full-service bus provider

TUPELO – With the city’s short-term public transit shortcoming potentially solved, a municipal group Friday plowed ahead its with long-range plans.
The volunteer-based Public Transportation Committee met with officials from one of the nation’s largest bus service providers, Cincinnati-based First Transit, about implementing a full-scale system in Tupelo.
The system would run several regular routes through the city, providing low-cost transportation for the public.
It’s different from a proposed short-term bus service, which would run two buses on a flexible route until permanent bus service could be established. That plan will go before the City Council next week.
The long-term plan involves extensive studies and hired consultants. First Transit proposed sending an on-site manager to spend one year in Tupelo setting up a system, identifying funds and lobbying for money.
That option would cost $100,000 to $120,000, but Tupelo would pay only about a tenth of that – the rest would come from a Federal Transit Administration planning grant, said Frank Tobey, region vice president for First Transit.
Tobey said his company would help Tupelo secure the grant.
“Every city has a need for public transit,” Tobey said. “It’s a necessity like fire and police.”
In the meantime, committee members continued to negotiate with Colorado-based LSC Transportation Consultants to provide its own transit service plan.
For a fee of $27,000, LSC would work with the city to develop an appropriate bus system and provide guidance implementing it.
The committee has yet to decide which option to take for its long-range transportation service.
Either way, implementing such a system would take about one year. So the City Council on Tuesday will consider – but might not immediately vote on – a contract with Booneville-based Northeast Mississippi Community Services to run two buses within the city limits.
One bus would follow a fixed route with regular stops; the other would provide individual rides to residents who call for an appointment.
It would cost $1 per one-way trip for riders.
The city would pay $68,000 a year to NEMCS for the service, which includes the buses, drivers, fuel, maintenance and insurance.
The system would operate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 6 a.m. to midnight on Friday, and from noon until midnight on Saturday. Tupelo could cancel the contract at any time with a 30-day notice.
Service could begin by Christmas.

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

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal