DeSoto County officials interested in MATA service - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

DeSoto County officials interested in MATA service

HERNANDO, Miss. (AP) - DeSoto County supervisors want to talk with the Memphis Area Transportation Authority to see if the agency would expand its bus service south of the state line.

Supervisors this week voted to talk with MATA after local residents cited a need for a countywide mass transportation system.

"MATA is losing money now," Supervisor Bill Russell said. "If they have an opportunity to pick up riders in Olive Branch, Southaven, Horn lake and parts of Hernando, they might be able to make a profit."

Russell said the county doesn't have the money to underwrite a stand-alone public transportation system.

"The fact is we don't have enough money in our budget to pay for public transportation but the citizens may be willing to pay for it," he said.

The DeSoto County AARP Chapter had asked supervisors to determine the feasibility of a public transit system - at least in sections of the county where public transportation does not exist.

"We're all aging," AARP member Geraldine Patton told supervisors. "The more congested it (traffic) is, the more difficult it will be for us to drive in DeSoto County."

Pat Coats, another AARP member, said the high price of gasoline has made it almost impossible for some low to moderate income individuals to drive to and from the doctor, shopping center and other necessary places.

"I don't think public transportation should be a giveaway. I think people are willing to pay for it. One dollar, two dollars or three dollars is a good price," she said.

DeSoto County presently has a contract with North Delta Planning and Development District to ferry individuals back and forth to the doctor and other places.

Private companies in the county also provide a transit service on a large or small scale if the funding for the program is guaranteed.

American Medical Transportation Company provides an elderly/handicap taxi service. The fee is $7 each way, or $35 for an individual in a wheelchair. The service operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day. A sitter is available for $25 per day for riders who need assistance at a destination.

Officials said there are also state and federal grants that provide funds for programs that increase air quality and encourage carpooling such as the federal Ride Share program, used through rental cars and vans.

Mississippi's capital city, Jackson, subcontracts with a private service, JTRAN. Hattiesburg also subcontracts with a bus service to provide citywide transportation.

Meridian receives no county funding but subsidizes its bus service through federal and city funds totaling $389,526. Vicksburg's transit service is set up as a nonprofit and operates with federal and city funds amounting to $382,000. Natchez' transit service cost more than a half million dollars, funded from federal and city revenue.

In Oxford and Lafayette County, the two entities operate a transit service from a $451,000 federal grant.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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