TUPELO – A mobility study funded by Toyota has identified the All-America City as home to several population segments likely to benefit from increased public transportation options.

The Community Transportation Association of America is near the completion of a demographic and economic analysis of Northeast Mississippi. This analysis seeks to identify transportation options available in the area as well as populations underserved by current options.

Tupelo’s City Council has received a draft copy of the study, though the city did not pay for it. Only Toyota provided funding.

During a Tuesday afternoon work session, the council heard a presentation from representatives of the nonprofit organization that prepared the study.

Charles Dickson, deputy director of the CTAA, told council members Tupelo’s demographics are unique in certain respects.

“The population of Tupelo skews both older than typical and younger,” Dickson said.

Dickson said that with older adults, reliable transportation to medical care is a significant issue. The study’s findings indicate that this issue is particularly acute in Northeast Mississippi, because so much medical care is concentrated in Tupelo.

For younger people, transportation to education and employment opportunities can be hampered by lack of access to transportation.

Tupelo is home to a notable population living under the federal poverty level, citizens more likely to face uncertainty over mobility.

The CTAA study does not yet offer recommendations of specific transit systems or options that elected officials in Tupelo and Lee County might consider. It does identify a number of systems operated by so-called “peer communities,” including Vicksburg and Natchez and offers data on ridership levels and the costs of those systems.

The data compiled by this Toyota-backed study comes as the Tupelo City Council prepares to hear an unrelated report next week on public transportation.

That report will offer recommendations from a transportation committee that has worked with Climb-Up, a transportation service provider associated with Lifecore Health Group.

Tupelo Chief Operations Officer Don Lewis emphasized to the council Tuesday that the CTAA data may be useful but was not directly used by the transportation committee.

Comments by council members on Tuesday’s presentation tended to break down along the same lines that have for years defined debates about public transportation in Tupelo.

“I’m concerned about the cost of it, I’m concerned about how many people are going to ride it, and I’m concerned about safety,” said Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington.

On the other side of the issue, Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis urged her colleagues to seriously consider the prospect of a transit system.

“I want us to keep our minds open and be fair in thinking about the needs of all our citizens,” Davis said.

caleb.bedillion@journalinc.com Twitter: @CalebBedillion

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