Transit System Set for May 2004

July 17, 2003 - Posted at: 3:56 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark.-- Increasing the mobility of Craighead County residents is the key to the future, according to the Northeast Arkansas Transit Authority.

The Authority's board has a goal: to get transit buses on the road by May 2004.

"Research shows that for every dollar spent on a city transit system, you get four to five dollars back in economic benefit," said Authority board chairman Steve Ewart.

After five years of planning and studies, the board voted to move into the implementation phase of the project on Tuesday and said buses should be rolling on the streets of Jonesboro by May of 2004.

Ewart said, "Theoreticaly, we know this thing will work. We just have to continue to work on the model, what routes to run, how many buses do we need. We know what the consultants say, now we've got to crunch the numbers and know what the reality is."

Initial costs to the city are expected to total $500,000 per year, according to Ewart. The City of Jonesboro will pay $200,000, while the Greater Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce will add another $300,000 per year. Those monies will be added to $800,000 in state and federal funding totaling.

Ewart says the new transit system will begin in Jonesboro and after a three run it will be offered to all of Craighead county through an estimated 1/2 cent sales tax increase.

"Nothing's free," added Ewart. "And we think this public service deserves the same funding as parks and recreastion, fire and police.  We're now at the level where we need alternate transportation to offer the citizens of Jonesboro."