By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Mayoral candidate Todd Wade says Oxford-University Transit (OUT) should play a bigger role in solving Oxford’s transportation and parking problems.
“When I’m going door to door, I ask people, ‘What’s your favorite thing about Oxford?’ and it’s usually the small-town atmosphere,” he said. “When I ask what they most dislike, it’s usually the traffic.”
While Wade says new roads identified in the city’s Vision 2020 plan in 1999 still need to be built, he believes more transit use could cut traffic and parking congestion sooner.
“With OUT, you’re getting more students but not many Oxford residents,” he said. “You can change that with stations that have parking.”
Wade proposes using the proposed downtown parking garage as a transit hub, a suggestion that has accompanied much of its discussion. Built as a public-private partnership, he said, it could be built without major cost to the city, or the city could build it and generate a revenue stream.
Where Wade differs is in proposing other park-and-ride locations near the city’s gateways to encourage commuters and visitors to switch to buses for in-city travel. He also suggested a transit-and-retail use of the current Baptist Memorial Hospital parking garage after the new hospital is built.
“Commuters can park and ride without fighting traffic,” he said. “It’s green. Tourists can enjoy themselves.”
Wade said transit stations would likely steer residential growth in more directions around Oxford – growth that has recently made Lafayette County the state’s fasting growing.
“People can have the idea they can move to a certain area and be close to transportation, to get to the areas they need to go to much safer than they can now,” he said. “By 2020 or 2021, we’re looking at 20,000 more people in Lafayette County. A long-term plan has got to take place now.”
Mayor George “Pat” Patterson, who will face Wade in Tuesday’s general election, declined to comment on the proposal, which was presented Thursday to media representatives only.
“I just don’t feel like I can comment on Mr. Wade’s private press conference that the public wasn’t invited to,” Patterson said. “Given the chance to review the material, I’m open to any good ideas.”