Tupelo transportation plans on the way

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By Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo City Council President Nettie Davis started Wednesday’s public transportation meeting hoping for more than just agreement that some residents need more options for traveling in the community.

For the second time in two months, transportation advocates with the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the state AARP chapter met with council members, Mayor Jason Shelton and resident volunteers of Tupelo’s transportation committee. This time, staff from Northeast Community Services, a nonprofit that operates transportation services in six counties, joined the conversation, as did the owner of a local cab company.

“I hope we’ll move forward and accomplish more than the last time,” Davis said.

This meeting was supposed to find the next step for Tupelo exploring public transportation options.

After an hour-and-a-half in City Hall discussing fixed-route shuttle options, subsidized taxi rides, dial-a-ride, considering a city-run system or one contracted with a third party, Davis and other public transit advocates wanted action.

What they got was the promise to hear proposals in three or four months.

Don Lewis, Tupelo chief operations officer, and other city staff agreed to meet with resident volunteers with city’s public transportation committee to create fresh options for Tupelo’s policymakers to consider.

Jim Casey, transportation committee member, said he hoped the city will take action on proposals presented. In 2010, the city approved a $25,000 transportation study but didn’t move forward on recommendations of a regular-route system that would have cost $436,050.

With the transit study collecting dust, Casey said updating it shouldn’t take long.

“We feel like we’ve done our homework on this and it just needs to be tweaked,” he said.

Other City Council members at the meeting including Jim Newell of Ward 3 and Lynn Bryan of Ward 2 said they acknowledged the need but had concerns that a city transit system would impact taxpayers.

“The pie is just so big,” said Ward 5 Councilman Buddy Palmer. “We may need to start quieter or slower.”