Mississippi Transit App Running Behind Over Tracking Tech

The city of Tupelo has been trying to develop a smartphone app that would allow riders to track buses in real time. But officials are saying a viable solution has been harder to create than they expected.

by Caleb Bedillion Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal / April 9, 2019
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(TNS) — After months of discussion, a smartphone app designed to assist public transit riders in Tupelo still isn’t ready for a public rollout.

Tupelo Transit’s pilot period of 13 months is about at the halfway point. City hall leaders have revised routes and devised a number of promotional programs as they have struggled to boost participation numbers.

Since at least last December, Mayor Jason Shelton’s administration has been in talks with a software developer who is also working with the Mississippi Department of Transportation to develop mobile phone software programs to assist public transportation programs in the state.

In that December meeting, a January rollout was discussed as feasible. The app was intended to help Tupelo residents locate the nearest bus stop and possibly track the location of Tupelo Transit buses in real time.

Now, in early April, there’s still no certainty on the issue.

“I haven’t seen that it is operational,” said Tupelo Chief Operations Officer Don Lewis.

The city’s bus system is managed by Northeast Mississippi Community Services with funding from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the city of Tupelo.

Valerie Arnold is transportation coordinator with the Booneville-based Northeast Mississippi Community Services. According to her latest information, the app itself is designed but is not fully functional, because, in part, the tracking capability for each bus is still in development.

There’s at least some public interest in an app. During a recent tour of the city’s wards by Mayor Jason Shelton, a Ward 1 resident asked the mayor if any such Tupelo Transit app was planned.

In that forum, Shelton acknowledged that his administration has faced difficulties in its efforts to solve a longstanding policy debate in the city over public transit.

“I was shocked how difficult finding a workable solution actually is,” Shelton said.

Last year, the Tupelo City Council voted to spend $209,000 on a 13-month public transit plan. An additional $220,000 in funding came through MDOT.

The city bus system will once again come before the Tupelo City Council later this summer as the clock runs out on the transit pilot program.

At least one swing vote is concerned about the viability of a fixed-route bus system.

“Me, personally, I don’t see that it’s working out very well,” said Ward 5 Councilman Buddy Palmer. “I’ll make up my mind then, but it’s going to have to improve from what I’m seeing now.”

Palmer was among a narrow four-vote majority that approved short-term public transit last year. None of the three dissenters look likely to change their minds, so transit proponents will need to convince the entire four-person majority from last year to stick with the program.

©2019 the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, Miss.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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