Against the backdrop of a Hub City Transit bus stop at Edwards Street Fellowship Center, Mayor Toby Barker and other city officials announced the details of a $1.8 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration that will improve bus stops by adding sidewalks, pedestrian signals and crosswalks at select locations throughout the city.
The funds, which come from the FTA’s Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program, are expected to enhance safety for Hub City Transit’s riders, increase access to businesses, and attract new customers. It was procured with the help of Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy-Hyde Smith, along with Congressman Steven Palazzo and city grant writer Jennifer Shows.
“This will fund sidewalk, crosswalk, and pedestrian signal improvements at eight sites that will encompass 19 different bus stops throughout the city,” Barker said. “These improvements will also upgrade some of our existing facilities to be (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible, and in some cases, allow for multi-use of the pathways by pedestrians and bicycles.”
Those project sites include the following:
- Ward 5: Edwards Street Fellowship Center in the Irene Chapel Neighborhood, which is on the Purple Route; and McInnis Loop between South 28thAvenue and U.S. 11, which is on the Red Route.
- Ward 4: On Hardy Street between Park Avenue and South 17thAvenue, which is on the Blue Route.
- Ward 2: On Edwards Street in the neighborhood between Tuscan Avenue and Duke Avenue, which is on the Purple and Orange routes; on East 7thStreet in the Mobile-Bouie Neighborhood, which is on the Brown Route; and on Grace Avenue, which also is on the Brown Route.
- Ward 1: On Hardy Street between 36thAvenue and 38thavenues, which is on the Blue and Green routes; and on North 31stAvenue north of West 7thStreet, which is where the Brown, Yellow and Green routes intersect.
“These improvements will increase pedestrian access to our bus stops and further our ridership in Hub City Transit,” Barker said. “The progress we have seen in our public transportation over the last two to three years is nothing short of remarkable.
“In 2018, we expanded to seven routes and 15 transfer points; later that year we hit 100,000 in total ridership in a single year for the first time in history. We hit that 100,000 number again last year, and earlier this year we implemented a tracking system at hubcitytransit.com where you can actually track the bus you’re waiting on in real time, so you know exactly where it is while you wait.”
Hattiesburg’s $1.8 million is part of $464 million in federal grants awarded throughout the country by the FTA.
“This grant continues that forward progress, and let there be no doubt: access to public transportation is vital to our city’s continued growth,” Barker said. “It provides ladders of opportunity to those who need to access our two universities at Southern Miss and William Carey; our workforce development center at (Pearl River Community College); health facilities like Forrest General Hospital, Merit Health Wesley, Hattiesburg Clinic; and the many grocery stores, retail stores and restaurants that make up the second-largest retail economy in the state.
“This investment also continues our city’s commitment to walkability and complete streets in all our neighborhoods. These complete streets can accommodate the needs of everyone, regardless of their mode of transportation.”
Hattiesburg City Council recently committed to a match of $800,000 over the next three years, which is a 30 percent match that brings the total investment of the project to $2.6 million.
“That 30 percent match helped make our application more competitive, and I think that’s why we got it this year and didn’t get it last year,” Barker said. “That match will come from a combination of 1 percent Parks and Recreation funds that were over initial projections; it’ll come from some general fund sources and also some leftover state bond allotments.”
The Buses and Bus Facilities Program supports projects to replace, rehabilitate, and purchase buses, bus-related facilities and related equipment. The FTA received 282 applications totaling approximately $181 billion in funding requests from 51 states and territories.
The grant was originally announced on Aug. 10 by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao, and project proposals were evaluated based on criteria outlined in a Notice of Funding Opportunity.
“This grant, and us receiving this for the City of Hattiesburg, is a testament to our commitment to public transit,” Ward 1 Councilman Jeffrey George said. “As the (representative for) the ward in our city that contains the University of Southern Mississippi, public transit is integral to the success of Southern Miss and to the surrounding businesses and greater community.”
Project proposals were evaluated based on criteria outlined in a Notice of Funding Opportunity.
Hub City Transit operates a fixed-route service that is available to the public for a nominal fare and can be accessed at any Hub City Transit bus stop. All seven of the service’s routes are named by color: Purple Route for Palmers Crossing, Green Route for 4th Street, Blue Route for Hardy Street, Red Route for Country Club, Orange Route for Broadway Drive, Gold Route for the University of Southern Mississippi and Brown Route for Mississippi 42.
The fixed-route service buses run from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday except for New Year’s Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Hub City Transit also offers a para-transit service for qualified individuals with mobility impairments who are unable to use the fixed-route service. That service is a demand-responsive, advance reservation, address-to-address and door-to-door service.
Eligible passengers are not required to live within the Hattiesburg city limits to utilize the service, and wheelchair accessible vehicles are available to assist in transporting persons with disabilities. An American with Disabilities Act eligibility application is used to determine eligibility for the para-transit service.
“Safety is a very important issue that we take seriously for our citizens, so this is going to be great for safety, great for helping community members that don’t have the means of their own,” Ward 5 Councilman Nicholas Brown said. “We just want to continue to do great things here in Hattiesburg, and this is a great deal for all four wards that were mentioned. It’s extra special when you can get some grant money to come along with a match.”