HED: Tupelo's leaders will look at regional bus plan

- But the chances of solving the transit problem remain slim, the mayor says.

By Emily Le Coz

Daily Journal

TUPELO - Residents stranded by Lift Inc.'s decision to discontinue bus service here might get some relief, if national and state transportation leaders can help local officials devise a rural transit plan.

Representatives from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and from Washington-based Community Transportation Service of America will meet Wednesday with Three Rivers Planning and Development District, the city of Tupelo and others to "discuss concepts about how to do rural transportation and how to get partners involved," said Three Rivers' Cleveland Joseph.

Lift Inc. discontinued its 20-year-old transportation service this week.

"Our intention," said Charles Carr, MDOT's public transit director, "is to meet with representatives from the county, the city and the planning and development district next week to see if we can sort out who will continue to provide transportation or even expand transportation, because we think there is obviously an even greater need now with Toyota."

Toyota will open a $1.3 billion plant in Blue Springs by 2010 that will employ 2,000 people, many of whom are expected to come from throughout Northeast Mississippi.

But at least one local public official predicted only a slim chance at finding a workable solution.

Tupelo Mayor Ed Neelly said that if the city takes over public transportation, it could justify the expense only by running regular routes. But he doubted enough people would use the system to offset its costs. Lift's former transit director, Paul Thomas, estimated that if the city and county jointly ran the buses, it would cost each entity $100,000 a year.

Contact Daily Journal city reporter Emily Le Coz at 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

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