It’s a good time for the county to consider public transportation

Published 11:28 am Monday, December 5, 2016

I have the worst luck with cars.

A couple years ago I decided cars and I were just never going to have a healthy relationship and when my last car died a slow, painful death, I didn’t get a new one. I figured having three kids with cars who live in Oxford and living only a few feet away from an Oxford University Transit bus stop, I could get around well enough.

I took the bus often to work before the EAGLE offices moved off the Square. Now, located just a few feet outside of city limits, the bus is no longer an option for me because the bus does not run in the county, except to Brittany Woods.

When OUT was formed, the county opted out of a partnership between the city of Oxford and the University of Mississippi.

Admittedly, “Get on OUT” is a catchier slogan than LOUT, but as the city is becoming more crowded and officials looking at building services closer to the county line, I believe it’s something the county Board of Supervisors should look at again more closely.

Recently, city and county officials unofficially agreed to work on a joint building that would house the Justice and City Municipal Courts and clerks’ offices. During a work session last week, the Oxford Board of Aldermen agreed to move forward with talks with county leaders. The city would rent space in the building for an undetermined amount of time for its Municipal Court and Clerk’s Office, until such time as the city built a new municipal building – somewhere.

The plan for the county is to build it on County Road 406 near the Lafayette County School District campus.

Both courts are misdemeanor courts, handling traffic cases which include driving while under the influence, public drunks and other lower offenses. That means many people having to go to court or to the clerk’s office to pay fines may not have a valid driver’s license. One can assume they’re taking the bus to get to the Square or getting a ride, which is probably a lot easier to get when someone only has to drive you to the heart of Oxford.

If the two governments move forward with this joint building, I hope they consider providing public transportation to the site.

This is a perfect time for the county to reconsider getting involved with OUT, which is already established and successful.

Most of OUTs riders are students. Why not? It’s free for them. Yet each month, while ridership numbers increase, the fare box revenue decreases. To me, this shows that less average citizens are using the bus. It’s just $1 to ride, so cost is probably not an issue. But the system is being heavily geared for students. Many stops along the non-university routes are still without shelters. There’s no bus to the Lafayette County Industrial Park, where a good number of county residents work.

The area is in desperate need for affordable housing. If the bus ran outside of the city, more developers may be willing to build in those areas if they can market the development as being accessible by public transportation.

I know it wouldn’t make sense to have buses run far out in the county, but as Oxford grows and more and more jobs and homes are being built just outside the city limits, it just makes sense for the county to provide its citizens a way to get to and from grocery stores, the Square and doctor’s offices.

The city and county working together on projects is something that should happen more often to make our entire LOU community more cohesive and adding public transportation to areas in the county close to city limits needs to be seriously considered by our county supervisors.

alyssa schnugg is Senior Writer at the EAGLE. Write to her at alyssa.schnugg@oxfordeagle.com