Rock Region Metro
has won a $360,000 grant to install 25 solar-powered shelters, including a bench and bike rack, around its route system in Pulaski County.
It's the first time the company has gotten money from the federal Transportation Alternatives Program, which encourages pedestrian and bicycle alternatives to transportation. They'll join 30 other new shelters, meaning a 55 percent increase in shelters in a few months.
These are small things to the vast vehicle-commuting populace, but big things to bus riders. Bus ridership only rarely includes me, but I recognize the shelters as steps toward broadening ridership. I think of San Francisco, with its vast and efficient transit system with lots of shelters and easy access by mobile devices to bus arrival times. That could come here and with more frequent service become more attractive to more people.
Rock Region has an an energetic and aggressive new director, Jarod Varner,
who's trying hard to expand the transit alternatives here. He's trying to get the Quorum Court to put a sales tax for transit on the county ballot March 1. The Quorum Court will decide next week. Ignore the complaints that this is somehow a bad time for a tax election because general election turnout might be bigger. A presidential primary date is no single-purpose special election. There will be a large and representative turnout. That may not bode well for the bus tax, in fact, given the county's historic resistance to tax increases, including past votes for such great needs as the county jail.
I expect to vote for the transit support if given a chance. Good mass transit is a hallmark of a great city. A dedicated revenue stream would be an immense aid.