August 25, 2012 9:02:45 PM
Jeff Clark - [email protected]
Public transportation could be on the horizon for parts of the Golden Triangle.
The Columbus City Council hopes to begin talks with the owner of a Lawrence, Ind., bus company, who is looking to bring 10 buses to Columbus. Travis Jones, the city's director of federal programs, told the council Tuesday that Criss Reeding, owner of Lawrence Transit System, is eager to begin talks with the city leaders.
"I think having a public transportation system will be a great thing for Columbus," Jones said. "We don't have one now and it could definitely help."
Jones told the mayor and council that Reeding said the bus service could come at no expense to the city. Estimated fares for the service are $1.50 for students, $2 for adults and $5 a month for handicapped passengers.
"(Reeding) is looking for some in-kind services such as signs and pick-up points," said Jones. "We will know more once we have talked with Reeding."
The proposed 10 buses would be a mixture of 32- and 18-passenger buses, Reeding said, all fully handicap-accessible.
"We will know more when we sit down and talk," Reeding said Thursday. "We need to go over the particulars and see if the city would like to commit."
One of the "particulars," Reeding mentioned would be getting grant funding for the project. Reeding said there were a "variety of grants" he would like to pursue with the city.
"I'm hoping these talks will begin soon because there's a window of opportunity to get some federal grants and we don't want to miss that," Reeding said. "One of the in-kind services I'm seeking is for some general cooperation from the city on applying for grants. There may be some matching funds required on some grants -- nothing is certain at this time."
If Columbus sees a bus line to fruition, it would join neighboring Starkville in providing a bus service. According to Starkville Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill, a bus partnership between the city and Mississippi State University is looking to expand.
"Currently, it's a part of the MSU transportation system," Spruill said. "The city is allowing people to park at the Sportsplex and a bus picks up students and takes them to MSU and then back to their cars. We're looking to expand and start running the shuttles from MSU to downtown at night."
Spruill said the expansion of services will be determined by a grant that has been applied for by MSU and the city. The grant amount, if it is issued, will not be known until after Sept. 4. The City of Starkville will be providing some in-kind services for the partnership.
"Some of the in-kind services we would provide are the right of ways and keeping the shuttle parking areas up, and making sure there are places for them to stop," said Spruill.
Columbus Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin is optimistic about the Indiana bus line coming to Columbus.
"I think it would be good for Columbus, especially if there is no cost to the city," Gavin said. "If matching funds are required, I would like to see it put by the private sector like we did with Mark Castleberry and Columbus Properties. This would also have to have some approval and input from (Mississippi Department of Transportation) but I don't see that being a problem. I think a bus line could help spur economic growth by taking people to different areas to shop that are out of their neighborhoods. It could provide retail opportunities."
Gavin, who also teaches at the Mayhew Campus of East Mississippi Community College, said he would also like to see a similar partnership between EMCC and Columbus. "I would like to talk to them about expanding out to EMCC," said Gavin. "It could be good not only for the citizens of Columbus but also the students at EMCC."