That is a first, sensible step toward finding out how, or if, Tupelo can afford a transit system serving both a general and special-needs ridership.
Tupelo, in previous episodes, has had bus service of various identities.
Those services, despite good intention, simply did not generate heavy ridership, and they did not survive.
The success of a new bus service in Oxford, which has exceeded ridership expectations, provides strong intra-regional impetus for supporters of public bus transit to seriously explore possibilities in Tupelo.
Some people also cite Meridian and Vicksburg as encouragement because both cities have forms of bus service.
A glance toward Tupelo's history is instructive:
Railroads built much of Tupelo's success from its 1870 founding until after World War II. Our city had the equivalent of the junction of interstate highways with the crossing of two nationally networked railroad lines, both with passenger service.
The railroads, in turn, made Tupelo attractive countywide and regionally. Concrete roads were built from rural Lee County as connectors into Tupelo. Wagons, cars and pedestrians all used those early hard-surface roads.
As the use of the personal auto became dominant and as Tupelo spread out residentially, bus service as previously known became problematic.
That's not to say Tupelo wouldn't benefit from bus service, but it has to be designed for a very specific, and probably narrow, scope of operations.
As the study group examines Tupelo's possibilities, we hope it will closely study what other cities have and the context in which they operate, especially long-term finances, and especially their sustained success, if it exists.
Meridian, which for a long time was Mississippi's second-largest city, has a history of bus service.
Meridian's system also coordinates with other East Central Mississippi transit system, which, while not exactly a mass transit system, is a system to get people affordably from the region into Meridian, as needed.
That cooperation was required for the Meridian system to continue receiving federal funds.
Tupelo officials like Mayor Ed Neelly acknowledge the need and the importance, but he said candidly "we would have to subsidize it."
Neelly said rider fees would help support the system but could never fully cover the expense.
The idea is understandably supported by a sizable number of people who are sight-impaired or for other reasons don't or can't drive cars.
This work won't be easy, and it's undertaken in unfavorable financial times. But it's worth studying.