djr-2018-08-26-news-transportation-spotlightp4

A Tupelo Transit bus crosses the Front Street intersection last year.

TUPELO • City officials expressed interest in an overhaul of the city’s public transportation system by taking away the fixed route system and allowing all city residents to request a transportation vehicle pick them up from their home.

The Tupelo City Council offered support for these changes during a Tuesday work session, with council members saying not enough people have been riding the buses along the routes.

Ward 5 Councilman Buddy Palmer said he supported the change because he never saw anyone get on or off the bus routes, including the route near the East Tupelo grocery story he owned for many decades.

“You see our big buses going through the city,” Palmer said. “They look beautiful, but they don’t have anyone on them.”

The city currently has two methods of travel within the public transit system. There are fixed routes that operate in a continuous loop with bus stops in certain locations. The other system is an on-demand system where elderly and disabled people could request a vehicle pick them up at their home.

If the City Council votes to adopt these changes, the public transportation system would only have the on-demand system, with all city residents eligible to participate.

Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan said he is against every form of the city’s public transportation with the exception of services to disabled and senior citizens. He believes the wider availability of on-demand transportation competes with cab companies and hurts their revenue.

“We are not a year-round tourist destination,” Bryan said. “We’re not a big city like New York, Chicago, Chattanooga or a big city that has public transportation. We’re just not big enough. We’re not a college town where kids and people are catching the bus, either. That’s why we’re not laid out for (public transportation).”

Mayor Jason Shelton previously told The Daily Journal he wished to keep the entire public transportation system. Shelton was not at the work session Tuesday.

In order to use the on-demand system, residents would have to call the transportation office 48 hours in advance and pay a $2 fare ticket.

The decision will be put to a final vote at the board’s next meeting on Tuesday, June 18.

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