04/15/11 — Officials hope for new bus routes in Mount Olive

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Officials hope for new bus routes in Mount Olive

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 15, 2011 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A bus route linking key locations throughout town and to existing GATEWAY stops here is a major concern as work continues on a comprehensive transportation plan for the town, officials said this week.

While the finished plan will address the town's transportation needs up to 20 or 30 years out, the need for a bus route is more immediate, Mount Olive Planning Board member Howard Lee said.

However, that project, along others in the plan, all face a common problem -- funding, members of the town's Comprehensive Transportation Planning Committee said.

Work on the two-year planning process has been under way for only a few months and Wednesday's session was devoted to the town's future transit needs.

The plan eventually will include all aspects of transportation -- rail, bus, cars, bicycles, sidewalks and pedestrian -- said Patrick Flanagan, a member of the Rural Planning Organization, who conducted the meeting.

Lee said that a fixed bus or van route through town was a "big concern and need."

"There are people who cannot get to the Piggly Wiggly," he said. "There are people who cannot get to Walmart. You see people walking alongside the streets carrying heavy bags and they are having to stop and rest. So there is a big need for something here in town for fixed routes."

Looking at a map of the town, Flanagan asked those at the meeting what areas of town would best be served by a fixed route.

The route should include the downtown area, Walmart, Piggly Wiggly, Family Medicine Center, Woodridge Apartments, North Pointe apartments, GlennCare and Mount Olive Care and Rehabilitation Center, members said.

Also, the town route should enable people to get to the GATEWAY stops at Walmart, Piggly Wiggly and South Center Street at Hillsboro Street. The GATEWAY vans make four trips between Mount Olive and Goldsboro during the week.

"If you don't have the transportation there are some people who would not be able to get to a doctor or medical appointment," said Steve Moore, Duplin County transportation and services on aging director. "The need is there and is going to get greater. Had you rather put the cost (in transportation) or in a convalescence home?

"You can't support this from fares. Somebody has got to put up money. People see Raleigh (buses) and think they are making a lot of money. That is not the case -- it is federal and local money."

Government officials don't understand the issues involved in public transit, Moore said. They always respond by telling a transit system to raise fares.

"You can cost yourself right out of business," he said.

Rather than trying to get that money "out of a turnip covered with red tape," why not try a more "homegrown" approach, Planning Board member Jeff Brogden said.

In light of what appears to be a steady decline in funding, why not partner with churches or community groups to help provide such a service, he said.

GATEWAY operations manager Terry Jordan suggested one way to keep costs down would be to run such a route only on certain days.

Questions also were raised as to how such a local system could serve the area's growing Hispanic population.

Another area that needs attention is improved communications between the transit systems in Duplin and Wayne counties, Moore said. That is particularly true for the northern part of Duplin County that adjoins the Mount Olive area, he said.

"We have done some coordinating with Onslow County," he said. "We have tried in the past without success in Wayne County. With the new (GATEWAY) leadership we hope to see that change."

GATEWAY Director Trey Rhodes agreed that coordination of efforts is important. Rhodes also said that GATEWAY officials have talked about an outreach program so that the public is more away of the system and it services.

The committee's next meeting is May 11 at 10 a.m. at the town's old train depot.