TUPELO – State officials convened community transportation providers spanning 14 counties throughout Northeast Mississippi in Tupelo for networking Tuesday, which included encouraging the area’s largest city to join the effort.
Shirley Wilson, director of Mississippi Department of Transportation’s public transit division, said during a break from the three meetings at the Link Centre that she and staff held the meeting at the request of Tupelo and state AARP public transit supporters.
The city waits to collect more proposals requested for businesses to operate a public transit system. City Hall has received a couple of proposals as some nonprofits consider whether to offer their services as possible options.
The City Council could vote as early as May to accept a proposal for a year-long pilot program. Three council members have voiced solid support for the transit trial while four others have less enthusiasm.
“We’re waiting on Tupelo,” Wilson said about the city’s decision to embrace public transit. “It’s really on them right now.”
Balancing the quality of life benefits from public transit with increased taxpayer expenses remains the central debate among city leaders. Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton attended the morning meeting and continued to offer qualified supported for a shuttle system in the city, recognizing cost as important.
“We have to look at what’s affordable and the best option for the city,” he said.
Cost estimates aren’t known for the proposed Tupelo service. Transportation providers throughout the region and supporters for the service discussed needs, how to meet them and special concerns for the disabled during the day’s three sessions.
Tupelo transportation committee volunteer Jim Casey and City Council President Nettie Davis used the meeting to network with transit professionals in other communities. They plan to speak with the manager of Oxford and Ole Miss’ transit system to gain insight for Tupelo’s potential opportunity.
“We need to step forward and get this going,” Casey said.