Image: The Clarion-Ledger

The City of Jackson has been awarded a $1.5 million federal transit administration grant to purchase new buses for the city’s JATRAN fleet.

The announcement was made in a press briefing at City Hall today.

“For as long as I can remember, long before I became Mayor… I heard the concerns of JATRAN ridership that our busses were ineffective, busses that have gone through so much wear and tear that they do not provide sufficient means for people to travel through our city,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said. “We have heard the concerns about the inefficiency of our routes, and today marks a wonderful beginning to address those issues. So long as we have… ineffective transit systems, we certainly cannot build the city of the future today.”

City of Jackson Planning and Development Department Director Dr. Mukesh Kumar lauded the grant – awarded through the help of Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith –  saying the lead time on the new buses is 18-24 months. Kumar hopes to have the new additions to the fleet on road by 2020.

Three previously funded and ordered Gillig brand buses will also arrive in September and be placed into service.

In last month, Jackson has also received ten used but “new to the city” busses from Kansas City, moving toward a capital improvement plan that calls to build a robust fleet of busses.

So far, two of those busses have been placed in service, two more are expected on the road next month and the remaining six by end of the year or early January.

Kumar also noted that a request for proposals (RFP) had been issued for JATRAN operations and maintenance, that several smaller transit vehicles are hoped for specialized services and that some bus shelters will see upgrades some.

Transportation and disability advocate Dr. Scott Crawford (who is wheelchair bound) was recognized for his efforts to help improve JATRAN.

“I don’t ride JATRAN because I’m disabled,” Dr. Crawford said. “I ride JATRAN because it’s the most environmentally sound way to get around. I believe in transit as part of the solution to climate change. I encourage everyone to ride.”

In other news out of today’s briefing, the City is ramping up their efforts to address blight.

To that end, the City’s Community Improvement Division, more recently under the purview of the Jackson Police Department, will soon fall under Planning and Development. The change, on October 1 – including new software implementation – seeks to make the process a more efficient one to deal with the “tremendous volume of complaints about code enforcement.”

Dr. Kumar noted a request for qualifications for demolition contractors has been issued and that preliminary conversations have been occurring with Hinds County Supervisor Peggy Calhoun, seeking county help with the work.

“As we look at building a thriving community, we must address the blight that plagues our community,” Mayor Lumumba added. “We must address it in a capacity that eliminates blight nearest our greatest assets and institutions valuable to our children and our community.”

Concluding today’s briefing Mayor Lumumba took the time to acknowledge what’s taking place in his administration.

“Right now, we’re not where we would have ourselves to be because we have significant progress to make. But there’s no doubt, we are on a forward trajectory. When I consider a school district under potential state takeover and now it remains in local control; when I consider city employees who have not received a raise in over a decade and were furloughed when we first entered government and now there is a proposal for a small cost of living adjustment; when I look at a JATRAN ridership that has been complaining about the condition of our buses for quite some time, I see progress; when I see the work of a planning and development department that, when we entered, there was no planning and very little development taking place, and yet I see people constantly stepping up to bat within that department, I’m excited about the direction our city is going in and I believe we should recognize this moment.”

Also of note:

  • An RFP for the master developer for the convention center site is being reviewed. The final draft should release Friday.
  • On September 21, the second Downtown Design Dialogue will focus on street design – how to design streets on a more human scale and promote an active street lifestyle.
  • A parklet – PARK(ing) Day: Downtown Jackson – will be set up on Congress Street September 21.
  • There have been individuals who are impersonating the City’s building inspectors. “That is clearly something we cannot tolerate at all,” Kumar said.
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