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Natchez Transit System ready to branch out into surrounding counties

Illustration by Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Natchez Transit System Executive Director Sabrina Bartley talks during the Natchez Regional Transit Facility’s grand opening.
Illustration by Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Natchez Transit System Executive Director Sabrina Bartley talks during the Natchez Regional Transit Facility’s grand opening.

The City of Natchez is expected to take control of the Natchez Regional Transit Facility this week, marking what one official said would be a complete transformation of transportation in Southwest Mississippi.

When Transportation Southern District Commissioner Tom King touted the facility at Wood Avenue and North Shields Lane during the October 2012 groundbreaking, he said it was the centerpiece of regional efforts to coordinate public and private transportation resources.

Natchez Transit System Executive Director Sabrina Bartley said that forecast would become a reality with regular connections on U.S. 61 South to Woodville, U.S. 84 East to Bude and the extension of the existing route on U.S. 61 North to Fayette and Vicksburg.

“We’re transitioning to be a more inclusive community transportation service,” Bartley said. “In order to do that, there are new things we are looking at like park and rides that will allow passengers to connect to neighboring towns through prescribed time schedules and pick ups and drop offs.

“Once (you) get to Natchez, the idea is that at the transit site, you would be able to transfer from the bus that brings you in from the neighboring county and circulate around town to the various enterprises.”

Bartley sees a willing partner in Woodville, where stakeholders have already hosted a community meeting with town leaders to discuss regular transportation between Wilkinson and Adams counties.

Woodville Mayor Gary D’Aquilla said his town has limited public transportation options and no way to provide travel to larger areas for those who may need regular medical attention.

He is looking forward to dedicated routes between Woodville and Natchez.

“That is why I support it 100 percent,” D’Aquilla said. “This will help people get to their doctors and places like that.”

Bartley said many people in the Woodville area work in Natchez, visit doctors or attend the Natchez campuses of Copiah-Lincoln Community College or Alcorn State University.

The transit buses would not pick up riders at their houses, Bartley said, but at designated stops in Woodville during morning, mid-day and evening stops.

“It would be done with a series of passes,” she said. “We are working right now with a vendor to do it with a swipe card. (Riders) could purchase so many transportation trips at one time or have monthly passes.”

Eventually, Bartley said, the services would expand to Jefferson and Amite counties.

Natchez Transit operates seven days a week, running between 4:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the week through Saturday and between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Sunday.

“The demand and stats are showing us that we need to increase that (weekday) 7 p.m. to about 11 p.m.,” Bartley said.

To fill the demand, Natchez Transit is looking to hire qualified drivers.

Bartley said a private transportation company would also locate in the facility offering, in part, limousine service that would service airports in Jackson or Baton Rouge and locations in between.

“If we can feel comfortable going to Chicago and New York City by plane, which is a public transportation provider, and getting onto a train, which is a public transportation provider, and moving to buses or subways, which are public transportation providers, and don’t have qualms about that, we should have those same types of connections in the rural areas,” Bartley said. “That is what we are doing. That is the vision.”