Tupelo Council delays interim bus plan

TUPELO – Public buses won’t roll down city streets just yet.
City Council members said Monday they have too many unanswered questions to approve the short-term bus system proposed by the Public Transportation Committee.
The committee recommended Tupelo sign a $68,000 contract with Booneville-based Northeast Mississippi Community Services to run two buses through the city.
It would provide immediate public transit while the committee studies a more long-term solution.
But after an hour-long meeting with the committee at City Hall, council members said they weren’t convinced.
“We have more questions than answers at this point,” said Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell. “We’re going to need another meeting.”
Council members worried that launching a temporary bus system would endanger a long-term solution if not done correctly. And they questioned whether a long-term solution was even necessary.
“We don’t know that there is enough need to support this,” said Ward 5 Councilman Jonny Davis. “That was the point of the study.”
The committee, which formed in August, was tasked with studying Tupelo’s need for public transportation and the feasibility of providing it.
But such a task could require two years or more, committee Chairman Brad Prewitt told the council.
In the meantime, the group wants to provide immediate service to the city’s most desperate residents – namely, the elderly, those with disabilities and those without cars.
“I get two or three calls a week from people thanking the committee for working on this and telling what their specific need is,” said committee member Ora Baldwin.
About 200 disable residents also expressed their desire for public transit through a survey distributed by the group, said member David Puckett.
Puckett himself his blind and relies on taxis to get to and from work each day. He said a city bus would give him greater mobility at a more modest price.
The short-term plan would have provided one fixed route through the city six days a week and one bus that would operate like a taxi, with special-needs residents calling for a home pickup.
The group had hoped to have that system in place by Christmas, but it looks unlikely now.
“There’s no need to rush,” Davis said. “Not on something like this.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal