When City of Jackson Planning Director Dr. Mukesh Kumar began dreaming about a multi-modal transportation system for Jackson (think bus, bike share, pedestrian and car share), steering-wheel junkies were up in arms.
“You are not going to take me out of my car and put me on a bike!” Kumar recalls of conversations he had with skeptics.
“That’s not our intention at all. Our job isn’t to try to figure out (who uses) one mode to another, but to respond to the (comprehensive) mobility needs of the city. We have been treating public transportation as something people take when they have nothing else. That’s not how we see it. We actually see it the future of Jackson running on the backbone of transportation.”
For a project he’s long been working toward, Kumar was almost giddy in his announcement on Monday of a $1million Federal Transit Administration award to plan for the development of the ONELINE project. The 5-mile multi-modal corridor aims to connect neighborhood nodes from Fondren to downtown and to West Jackson, institutions and economic centers in central Jackson.
The funding received by the City of Jackson is part of a total of $16.6 million awarded to 20 organizations around the country by the FTA to support comprehensive planning projects that improve access to public transportation. The funds are made available through the FTA’s Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Planning, which assists communities that are developing new or expanding mass transit systems.
“One of greatest statistical corollaries between generational poverty is access and mobility to transportation,” said Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba. “As we venture to address the issues of poverty and be the radical city we speak of, we must necessarily address the issue of transportation.”
ONELINE will directly impact 20 square miles of the city. This core area contains the highest concentration of employment and institutions in the state including Jackson State University, Millsaps College, Belhaven University, University of Mississippi Medical Center and Baptist Medical Center, along with the City, County, and State Government Offices.
Statistics show that 48,000 people live in and 60,000 work within the project area. 90 percent of those who live in the area use their own automobiles, two percent walk and one percent take public transit.
“It is necessary that we create a more robust public transportation system,” Lumumba said. “We are putting together a coordinated effort so that we are a city that no longer chases projects but a city that chases a collective vision of how we build the future of Jackson.”
The City of Jackson’s Department of Planning and Development has been working on the ONELINE project with a steering committee made up of major institutions along the corridor which include University of Mississippi Medical Center, Millsaps College, Jackson ADA Council, Jackson State University, Fondren Renaissance, Belhaven University and Downtown Jackson Partners.
Dr. Scott Crawford, a Fondren resident confined to a wheelchair who has served on the ONELINE steering committee, said the ONLINE for him means a more productive life.
“I can get around a whole lot easier. I don’t have to wait in the rain. I’ll have a (bus) shelter. I’ll have quicker access to downtown so I can take care of myself better.”
The project is moving quickly. The FTA grant means there’s intent behind it. How soon will we see progress?
“By August of this year,” Kumar said, “expect to see major changes in this corridor.”
A minimum of six public meetings, possibly ten in the coming months, will put the public up close with project leaders
Two are scheduled already: February 21 at JSU from 4 – 6 p.m. (location TBA) and February 25 at Belhaven University from 4 – 6 p.m. in the Billy Kim Conference Center.