Negotiations for bus service in holding pattern

July 11, 2013 10:35:58 AM

Nathan Gregory - [email protected]


More than three months after local officials visited Lawrence Transit System's main headquarters in Indiana, negotiations to contract the public bus service for use in Columbus remain ongoing. 


In April Mayor Robert Smith, Councilman and vice mayor Gene Taylor, director of federal programs Travis Jones and city attorney Jeff Turnage met with city leaders in Lawrence as well as LTS' owner, Cliff Redden, to discuss details related to bring the company's service to Columbus.  


At this point, the decision is Redden's to make, officials said. 


Jones said Wednesday the city was in a "waiting mode." The city's chief operations officer, David Armstrong, agreed. 


"I know (Smith) is still talking to them and the ball is basically in their court," Armstrong said. "We've done everything we can do. We're just waiting to hear back from them." 


Taylor said he has had no communication with Lawrence representatives. 


"It was two or three weeks after we went to Indianapolis concerning routes but outside of that, I haven't heard anything since," Taylor said. "I do think it's something we need to address and I'll find out what direction they want to go in." 


When sought for clarification on his plans and how he chose Columbus as a potential expansion location, neither Redden nor LTS representatives returned phone calls placed Monday through Wednesday. 


Discussion about bringing the transportation provider to the Friendly City began last year during city council meetings. The proposed system was met mostly with support from city leadership, but Redden never visited Columbus personally, prompting city officials to meet with him and observe operations at LTS' home base. 


The bus company began running routes in the Indianapolis suburb last May. Census figures from 2010 show the population of Lawrence was 46,001. 


Dorothy Dowdell, who first approached the council during meetings and would direct LTS operations in Columbus if a deal is reached, said the program would be provided at no cost to the city. 


People who use the service would pay a fare as with many other transportation providers, but no cost estimates have been released. 


Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.