JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Members of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department have been traveling all over the state to gather information.
They've held a series of meetings in different areas to try and determine what issues and needs public transit systems face.
They held their final meeting Thursday in Jonesboro at the St. Bernard's Auditorium.
Project Manager for Public Transportation for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department Bill Ryan said they've met with a lot of people.
"We're meeting here today," Ryan said. "To follow up with our last Regional Coordination Meeting for Human Service Program. That includes agencies that have specialized clients such as the East Arkansas Area Agency on Aging or Focus who works with people with disabilities. We also have an urban transit system in Jonesboro, JET. They're here today. And also, there's two rural public transit agencies in the area. BRAD is in Pocahontas and serves three counties there. NEAT, or Northeast Arkansas Transit is in Jonesboro and works in about five counties in the east and southern part of the area."
Ryan said it's important to hear what's happening from the people in that area.
"It's interesting because you'd think the same issues would come up in areas," Ryan said. "But each region has some unique needs. For example, Central Northern Arkansas has no rural public transit. So, if you're not eligible to meet one of the agencies requirements and become a client, you can't just pick up the phone and call somebody and ask them to come and pick you up and take you shopping or take you to the doctor. You have to fall into a certain group."
Ryan said they tried to make sure every part of the state was heard.
"We've covered the state," Ryan said. "Typically, in the planning and development regions. So, we've been all over. We've been all over Arkansas."
Ryan said an upside to these meetings is that in addition to the information they gather, they are also connecting groups of people together.
"Every five years we'll hold meetings and get people together," Ryan said. "We want to have people interact with each other. A lot of agencies that work down the street from each other don't realize the other agency is there. And they don't realize they have the opportunity to call a rural public transit agency and provide transportation for one of their clients. So, a lot of coordination has come out of these meetings. People from different agencies getting together is worth a lot."
Ryan said the next step is to compile all the information they've gathered from meetings over the past couple of weeks.
He said they will have an Arkansas Human Service Public Coordination Plan by the end of this year.
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