Transit supporters speak out

TUPELO – The City Council faced renewed pressure from public transit supporters Tuesday who took turns sharing their mobility woes and asking Tupelo for help.
Eight people spoke at the council’s meeting at City Hall, and each said municipal leaders need to pursue plans for public transit.
“The whole community needs public transportation,” said Gregory Wright, a Tupelo resident who works with fixed-income dialysis patients.
Wright said most of his patients can’t drive and struggle to find rides to their numerous weekly treatments.
The city had commissioned a $25,000 public transit study earlier this year, but most council members dismissed its recommendations as being too expensive. The options all cost roughly a half million dollars annually.
Although the council hasn’t formally rejected the study results, members have made no effort to pursue the recommendations or to set aside funding for it.
Tupelo resident Jim Newman argued that the report lacked enough information to make a decision one way or another. It provided only the base, he said, and now the city’s Public Transportation Committee should flesh out the details.
“Ask the committee to follow through on one of the options …,” Newman said, “and find a way to make it work.”
Richard Joiner, who said he is handicapped and can’t drive, asked the council to subsidize the existing taxi services here so that they’re more affordable for those who have no other transportation choice.
As is custom, council members do not respond directly to those speaking at the citizens’ hearing portion of the meeting. Afterward, though, council President Fred Pitts told the Daily Journal that he is sympathetic to the cause and wants to pursue the options.
Pitts said he’s confident Tupelo can find a way to provide transit without saddling the city with a half-million-dollar annual debt. But he said it will take more research from the Public Transportation Committee and assistance from the private sector.
It’s unclear at this point what the committee will do. Its members haven’t met since the council informally rejected the study recommendations, and many have expressed disappointment in what they claim as a lack of support.
Several committee members attended the council meeting this week but did not speak.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal