Tupelo public transit effort continues

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Tupelo StockBy Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – A request for proposals from companies interested in providing public transportation in Tupelo likely will be available for City Council review in late February, the next step toward creating a pilot transit system for Northeast Mississippi’s largest city.

The proposal will include requests for two transit options, service details and the cost.

While city attorney Ben Logan prepares the draft proposal request in the next couple of weeks for council members to review, public transit advocates plan to lobby Tupelo’s elected officials for support.

City officials and resident volunteers who met Thursday to discuss specifics for the proposal request seemed aware of the necessity of council support for the project to advance.

Ora Baldwin, an original Tupelo transportation committee member and city retirement director, said she planned to encourage residents of all ages to voice public support for the transit effort.

“We’re going to pull them together to talk to their council people,” she said.

This second push for public transportation comes after the previous City Council approved a $25,000 needs and feasibility study but didn’t take further action. Mayor Jason Shelton, elected in June, has pledged support for public transportation in recent months and before taking office.

One option in the request for proposals will involve a flex-route, where buses operate in zones and have fixed stops. However, the buses also can take passengers to locations other than set stops. Riders also can call in advance to have buses pick them up at locations besides the set stops.

Traditional fixed-route service, the second option, involves buses traveling along set routes and picking passengers up at designated locations without deviating from the set paths or making extra stops.

Don Lewis, city chief operations officer, said an initial pilot program would likely last a year, giving enough time to evaluate the system’s community benefit.

Council president Nettie Davis, who has supported the effort for years, acknowledged uncertain support from a council majority, which must approve project funding.

“This is going to be a fight,” she said.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com