JATRAN Will Live, but It Should Thrive | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

JATRAN Will Live, but It Should Thrive

I don't drive. I say that proudly, but my reasons for eschewing cars in favor of feet, bikes and mass transit has to wait for another blog post.

For now, I want to say that I was relieved (and surprised) that our City Council chose not to make any cuts to the city's bus system this year. Yes, JATRAN can be a mess, but the solution isn't to slash budgets and routes, rather it's actually to invest in public transportation. Not just money, but invest creativity into the bus system, from how JATRAN's buses look to how they run and where they take people. Make JATRAN smart, efficient and creative, and you will find smart and creative people choosing buses over cars.

I've lived in cities with good--and not so good--bus systems. The best was in Boulder, Colorado where rejecting cars is a point of pride, and mass transit is a celebration. Boulder paints its buses bright colors and gives the routes names such as Hop, Skip, Dash and Stampede. In Jackson, our buses are painted bank lobby green and follow routes named 1 through 14.

More importantly, the people who actually ride the buses helped design the system. Not wonky urban planners, but mothers, minimum wage workers and students who rely on buses to take us to jobs, schools and appointments. And because the buses take people where they need to go, take them there quickly and on time, people choose to ride the buses not because they have to, but because they want to. They're cheaper than cars, pollute less, require no insurance and are a celebration of economic and environmental independence.

But at its heart, the great, radical difference between good systems and our system is use of creativity and direct citizen involvement. Everything I've listed above happened because creative people produce Boulder's bus system, making it a kind of work of public art, a system that not only works, it thrives and has a hell of a lot of fun doing it.

Jackson government simply must develop that same enthusiastic creativity for public transportation and public involvement, or it must hand the reigns over to people who are perhaps younger and more willing to take chances with innovation. If not, JATRAN will continue to fail. But if so, I believe JATRAN will become one of the best reasons to live in Jackson.

Word to the wise. Jackson Progressives, are you listening?

Previous Comments

ID
143128
Comment

Maybe not with such funky colors, but, nonetheless, a good idea anyway. Boulder is also a large college town with the University of Colorado being based there, so I would guess that having such a large student population plays a role in having such a good transit system.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-01-29T13:05:32-06:00
ID
143130
Comment

I love Boulder, and love the idea of the themed buses and differently named stops. And I like the colorful buses! We desperately need good, reliable, ACCESSIBLE transportation for everyone here in Jackson. I think having the consumers assist in designing the routes is also a fantastic idea. It's good that the city council didn't slash JATRAN's budget, but you are right -- they need to invest more and get creative in order to make it a successful system.

Author
andi
Date
2009-01-29T13:40:11-06:00
ID
143134
Comment

From a creative standpoint, I LOVE THE BUSES! I would love to see something like that driving down the street in these parts. There were times when I thought about taking the bus when I didn't have a car, but I was frustrated by how far away the bus stops were from my final destination. The last thing I wanted to do was to show up somewhere smelling like sweat and car exhaust. Also, when I called JATRAN to ask about getting a bus pass, etc. the person asked me to come to the office. How can I come to the office if I don't.have.a.car?????

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2009-01-29T18:59:24-06:00
ID
143137
Comment

YES!! i'm from colorado and went to CU boulder for two years. the system out here is great (we even have buses that take people around campus--the Buff Bus). we also have RTD, going all over the metro area and allows commuters to park their cars at park-n-ride garages and ride buses downtown. jackson's transportation system was such a shock to me--for a year i didn't even know it existed (no publicity), and then i learned that it was not well-executed. there is so much room for improvement--and such a need. it's an expensive investment, but worth the money. if only we knew where to start....

Author
thetate
Date
2009-01-29T20:09:07-06:00
ID
143139
Comment

Wouldn't it be wonderful if our mayoral candidates and city developers decided to make that a priority

Author
Izzy
Date
2009-01-29T22:37:53-06:00
ID
143140
Comment

What's really needed for JATRAN to is expand its reach beyond Jackson's borders. There's no reason why Clinton, Madison County and Rankin County shouldn't want to be part of JATRAN. Many suburban areas around the country are still rather resistant to change. Even Gwinnett County, GA, didn't have mass transit until 2002, when their population exceeded 600K people (closer to 800K now). It primarily has to do with the fear of "undesirables" coming out to the suburbs and giving them easier access to commit crimes out there. Since many jobs are being created in outer reaches of metropolitan areas, people who can't or don't drive for whatever reason should have access to get to those jobs. You can't tell me that someone in the inner city wouldn't want to work on Highland Colony Parkway or on Lakeland Drive in Flowood if he or she had adequate transportation to get there. Also, look at the cost savings in gas (which we definitely could've used last summer after the record gas prices) and the environmental impact mass transit would have. I would like to see the next mayor of Jackson address JATRAN. I wouldn't mind taking it if it could take me to places I need to go and if it could run much later into the night rather than stopping at 6:30pm and no service on Sundays.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-01-29T22:44:20-06:00
ID
143141
Comment

Wouldn't it be wonderful if our mayoral candidates and city developers decided to make that a priority You had made this point just as I was writing my last post. As I said above, we need to try to get the surrounding communities on board. This means not just talking to public officials there, but also to residents as well. I'm sure of them would like to not have to tackle I-55 traffic in the morning and afternoon rush hour.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-01-29T22:47:52-06:00
ID
143143
Comment

I can't see very many people using the bus to get to and from work from the surrounding communites if they have a car. Just take a bus going from Highland Colony to Clinton, if it stopped a few the office buildings and came to 220 and took 80 to Clinton, you turn a 20 minute drive using the Trace in a car into a probably an hour or more bus ride. Don't see people wasting that much time on a bus.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2009-01-29T23:16:29-06:00
ID
143160
Comment

Golden Eagle has it right - the surrounding communities need to be involved, participate and contribute. Anything other than this is all but useless. BubbaT does have a point about it taking an hour, but what can you do on a bus that you can't do while driving? Read, write, socialize (in person, or on the phone - safely) and possibly other things as well. Finally, Jatran needs to be considered as something other than a method of getting the 'help' around Jackson. It really needs to be considered a tool for the entire population. I doubt that will happen again until gas hits $3/gallon or more.

Author
Pilgrim
Date
2009-01-30T16:13:39-06:00
ID
143163
Comment

I do believe that more communities will try to put more emphasis on mass transit by making improvements to make it relevant, like expanding bus routes, hours of operation, light rail, etc. But the way the economy is right now, it will be some time before many of those improvements will get off the ground. Plus, with gas prices coming way down from what they were last summer, there probably isn't as much of demand for it now. But there's no telling if and when these prices will spike again and if it does, it could last much longer that what it did. The fact is, the major population centers in the U.S. continue to grow. Some, like Atlanta, are doing it much faster than others. I lived there and what a lot of people may not realize is that Atlanta itself isn't very large. Only around 500K live in the city. About ten times more people live in the surrounding communities. Imagine that many people trying to converge onto Atlanta if all were in cars. However, MARTA only services two counties (Fulton & DeKalb). I mentioned earlier how nearby Gwinnett County didn't have mass transit service until 2002. Residents some years before voted not allow MARTA to come out there for fear of those living in Atlanta (read: Blacks) would come out there and terrorize their communities. A change in attitude from such narrow-minded people is perhaps the biggest mechanism needed to expand mass transit's reach. To answer Bubba's point about the amount of time it would take to get from one place to another by bus, mass transit may not be for everybody, or at least in all situations. When I lived in San Diego, I didn't own a car. I had to rely on buses and trolleys to get me to work and other places. Yes, it did mean waking up earlier to get to work on time and getting home later, but sometimes, you have to do what you have to do. Another fact is that the Jackson metro area's population is growing, albeit not very rapidly. But who knows, we could end up being the fastest-growing city in the planet some day! Mostly likely not, but while we are sitting at around 500K in population, now would be a great time (or at least when the economy's rolling again) to get ahead of the curve and expand JATRAN's options.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-01-30T19:24:00-06:00
ID
143186
Comment

Residents some years before voted not allow MARTA to come out there for fear of those living in Atlanta (read: Blacks) would come out there and terrorize their communities. I have to laugh at the thought of any real criminal trying to use the subway as a getaway car! I live in West Philly, and I don't own a car, either. There's definitely a culture of transit use among middle class people here that you don't see in Jackson. Seriously, one of the major things that needs to be done is that Jackson itself needs to be made more transit-friendly. Denser, mixed-use neighborhoods are a must for transit to really work. You need lots of people going and coming to the same places for efficiency. You need people to be able to do lots of their business on foot to reduce the amount of travel people need to do in the first place. (This also makes it easier for people to live without cars.) Mixed-use does both these things. Sprawly-suburban style development is very difficult to serve with transit. New developments in downtown Jackson and Fondren are encouraging because they tend to be more transit-friendly. This ties into that issue of the bus being really slow. You'll notice that most JATRAN routes don't go directly from A to B, but they snake and twist their way through side streets and detours, which really slows them down. They have to do this because of the sprawl-style way much of Jackson is laid out. Denser, mixed-use development would allow for more direct, and faster, bus routes. They could stick to the main thoroughfares, hitting the dense development nodes, and skip the side streets, really speeding things up. In the meantime, JATRAN could offer some express services. For example, they could run a bus that goes from downtown to County Line Road on I-55, and then makes local stops along County Line, providing quick job access for south and west Jackson residents. I could see similar express services to serve other commercial districts around the suburbs. The hardest to serve might be the newest strip malls along Highway 25 in Rankin County, since there's no expressway that goes directly there, and 25 is often a traffic nightmare. A JATRAN bus to the airport would be nice, too.

Author
Mark Michalovic
Date
2009-02-01T18:15:26-06:00
ID
143187
Comment

Bike racks. I forgot about bike racks. Put those on the buses, and more people will have easier access to the system, even if they don't live right near a bus stop.

Author
Mark Michalovic
Date
2009-02-01T18:19:10-06:00
ID
143188
Comment

I have to laugh at the thought of any real criminal trying to use the subway as a getaway car! Me too Mark! That was my thought exactly when people were talking about "undesirables" traveling to their communities. I also agree with you about the mixed-use neighborhoods:good public transit relationship. You really almost can't have one without the other.

Author
andi
Date
2009-02-01T18:34:06-06:00
ID
143190
Comment

There are infrastructure needs as well as just a change in routes or the areas covered. Jackson has very few sidewalks and almost no shelters (if there are any I haven't seen them). You would have to be pretty desperate for a ride to slog through the mud and then wait in the rain. I lived in Denver for eight years also. Five of those I didn't own a car. RTD was my main mode of transportation and they do a great job. It can be done with some planning and the right kinds of investments.

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-02-02T07:48:09-06:00
ID
143498
Comment

Instead of dumping money into large buses, JATRAN should invest in more smaller buses that are more efficient and can make stops more frequently. Another good tactic to increase the benefits of transit would be to install dedicated bus lanes. The fleet of buses needs to grow and the route system needs to encompass the metro area as well. The citizens of the Jackson Metro Area need to be informed and questioned on what they would want out of a transit system. A good strategy would be to show the pros of riding transit, like cheap transportation, no insurance requirements, and no parking fees at work. There's no reason 50-75k people should not benefit from transit everyday.

Author
chip
Date
2009-02-11T14:46:36-06:00
ID
143514
Comment

Running smaller buses more frequently would be wonderful for riders. A bus every 15 or 20 minutes is a lot better than a bus that runs every hour or half-hour. The real obstacle is that you have to hire more drivers to do that, and that costs money. I think it'd be money well spent, but you have to convince the people who make the budget of this.

Author
Mark Michalovic
Date
2009-02-12T05:18:02-06:00
ID
143527
Comment

Smaller buses can potentially achieve better fuel mileage, which could offset the extra costs of salaries for more drivers.

Author
chip
Date
2009-02-12T10:58:50-06:00

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