JATRAN Proposes Cuts | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

JATRAN Proposes Cuts

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JATRAN will get more buses with wheelchair lifts and ramps, but has proposed shortening some routes or having buses run less frequently.

Sept. 1, 2011

Proposed changes to Jackson's JATRAN bus routes to save money drew anger from some at a public hearing Tuesday evening. Others expressed relief that the reductions in service are much less drastic than those proposed last December.

In an effort to stay within budget, JATRAN asked the City Council to approve merging and shortening some bus routes and offering less service on others. Last December, the city proposed cutting Saturday and midday service and laying off drivers in an attempt to cut costs enough to keep the service running.

Sheila Adams, who rides the bus regularly, said the city should be adding buses and hours instead of reducing them. She raised her voice and shook her head angrily as she told the City Council she did not support the proposed changes. She worried that fewer buses on the roads will lead to people missing connections. "Won't nothing connect up downtown on time," she insisted. Others said the route changes will lead to overcrowding on some buses and long wait times.

Napoleon Campbell, vice chair of the Handi-Lift Advisory Committee, said there is no money in the budget for a new system. The committee meets monthly to deal with service and policy issues regarding JATRAN's wheelchair-lift service.

"JATRAN has been dead for 40-some-odd years," Campbell said, referring to the bus service's budget woes. He supports the route changes, despite their flaws, provided that JATRAN makes adjustments to fix problems as they go along. Campbell said JATRAN has to change and might not be able to travel directly to as many doors as it has in the past.

"We're just not a personal cab service anymore," he said.

Scott Crawford is the chair of the Handi-Lift Advisory Committee and a regular attendee at other JATRAN committee meetings. He said he wished more of the people at the public hearing had attended monthly JATRAN meetings to discuss the changes.

Crawford filed a lawsuit against the city in 2008 along with the Mississippi Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities and Disability Rights Mississippi. As a result of the suit, the city got more buses with wheelchair lifts and ramps to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"What JATRAN has said is true," Crawford said. "We cannot continue the routes that we have without buying many more fixed-route buses."

Because JATRAN is expanding its Handi-Lift service, it will have to take drivers from its fixed routes, he said. The routes will also have to allow JATRAN to take some buses to be off the streets to be serviced regularly.

"(This plan) is a far cry from what we were dealing with last December," Crawford said. "... I back this proposal as the best of all possible outcomes."

Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber praised the committees for "thinking futuristically."

"JATRAN has been on life support for quite some time," he said. "... Now, I think this crisis has gotten our attention."

Yarber added that it is no secret that JATRAN is flawed, but the city has to figure out how to make it work as well as possible.

"I am nowhere close to being satisfied, but I understand the process of change," Yarber said.

Sarah Asmus rides the bus from south Jackson to her job downtown every day, as she has for more than three years. She said JATRAN needs to "look into the future so we don't have to have this conversation every year."

Asmus suggested better marketing campaigns to make the benefits of JATRAN clear as well as better maps and websites so those who are not regular riders can understand them. She also suggested extending hours in the evening, so people dependent on the bus for transportation can visit businesses downtown later.

Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman and Ward 2 Councilman Chokwe Lumumba encouraged people to come to more JATRAN committee meetings.

"Don't let this be your only JATRAN meeting," Tilllman said. "We need to hear from riders."

Council President Frank Bluntson said although more people should have been at the hearing, he commends those who were there for coming.

The council still has to vote JATRAN's budget before the proposed changes take effect. Click here to read the proposal.

Previous Comments

ID
164810
Comment

@Buck -- Still trying to get updated information and maps from JATRAN. Hoping to get something posted soon.

Author
lizwaibel
Date
2011-09-01T13:54:28-06:00
ID
164811
Comment

I've added a link in the story to the information I have right now on the proposed changes. I'm hoping to get maps of the new routes and will post them if/when I do. For now, click here to read the JATRAN budget and route recommendations: http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/v3/images/documents/JATRAN_changes.pdf

Author
lizwaibel
Date
2011-09-01T14:07:14-06:00
ID
164820
Comment

Where and when are the JATRAN monthly meetings? I wasn't aware that they were open to the public.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2011-09-02T08:34:42-06:00
ID
164825
Comment

Asmus suggested better marketing campaigns to make the benefits of JATRAN clear as well as better maps and websites so those who are not regular riders can understand them. She also suggested extending hours in the evening, so people dependent on the bus for transportation can visit businesses downtown later. Ms. Asmus, it seems to me, is the only one "thinking futuristically". It's obvious that increasing ridership is the only thing that's going to save Jatran. But for the service to be really widely useful it's going to have to go outside the city limits and become a regional public transportation service. It doesn't even go to the airport for crying out loud. There are no park and ride centers because it serves very few commuter destinations. You would think a low cost alternative would have an advantage in the day of $3 plus gasoline. Jatran should be maximizing on that message and expanding routes and services instead of contracting.

Author
WMartin
Date
2011-09-02T15:52:52-06:00
ID
164828
Comment

I agree with WMartin. Also, while their redrawing their routes, they could streamline a lot of them to make service better. In the article, this passage caught my attention: "[Napoleon]Campbell said JATRAN has to change and might not be able to travel directly to as many doors as it has in the past." The current routes are slow and inefficient in part because they try to go directly to too many doors, and end up snaking around and and making lots of time-consuming detours. The routes should be changed so that a route sticks to a major thoroughfare for most of its route. For example, there should be a State Street bus that pretty much sticks to State Street, etc. Sure, some people will have to walk a block or two to reach the bus, but if you look at big cities where a large percentage of the people use mass transit, most people do walk a few blocks to their bus or subway stops, and we get along just fine. The benefit is that the bus becomes faster, and is more attractive to more riders despite the walk--and the exercise is good for people, too.

Author
Mark Michalovic
Date
2011-09-03T05:31:05-06:00

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