By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Starkville and Mississippi State University officials rode a shuttle around the city yesterday to help finalize plans for routes that would provide public transportation to many areas of the city.
Representatives from the city government, Transportation Commission, Greater Starkville Development Partnership, MSU transportation, Student Affairs and the Student Association all participated to give their input on the proposed routes.
“It was really great to see so much participation,” Chris Gottbrath, chair of the Transportation Commission, said. “It’s really early in all this, but we went through the routes and were able to ask questions and see what the logistics would look like.”
The shuttle would be a joint effort between the city the university. It would be funded by a grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said the city will apply for funding by March 2012. If the city is approved for the grant, funding would be in place by next fall and the shuttles would likely be fully operational by January of 2013.
There are three routes planned that would service the major areas of the city.
“The goal of all of this is to make a shuttle system for all — students, low income housing, health care, shopping, the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services and Medicaid,” Dumas said. “While there is a heavy focus on students because it is one of the greater needs, it will also provide services to the entire community.”
The first route would be the downtown connector, which would be an express route from downtown to campus.
The second route will be a “park and ride,” which will run from the Starkville Sportsplex to campus. Dumas said this route will likely be running by fall of 2012. It will be serviced by two shuttles.
“It will service students who live on the south side of town, as well as the city parks and campus,” Dumas said.
The third and much larger route would be a community route. It would service Main Street, OCH Regional Medical Center, low-income housing on Reed Road, medical services on Stark Road, Walmart, Kroger, Piggly Wiggly and stop at some of the state rehabilitation services on Industrial Park Road. This route will also be serviced by two shuttles.
The hope is the shuttles will provide a vital service to all members of the community.
“There are a lot of people who don’t have cars who don’t have access to the things that they need — medical needs, access to the university, social services, things of that nature,” GSDP President Jon Maynard said.
Maynard also said the shuttle would cut down on the number of cars on the road, which would save the city money on road maintenance in the long run.
“I think it’s going to benefit us cost wise in terms of future growth, but also allow us to sell the community as a forward thinking and progressive community,” Maynard said.
A public hearing on the shuttles will be held on Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Gillespie Center. City officials plan to have maps of the proposed routes ready at that time.
“We’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts and wishes for this system,” Gottbrath said. “We’ll talk through what we envision, but nothing is set in stone yet.”