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Jackson Upgrading Public Transit System: ‘It Is The Radical Thing To Do’

Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba is interposed over a photo of a blue and orange JTRAN bus driving downtown
Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba announced several upgrades planned for Jackson’s public transit system, JTRAN, at a press briefing on Sept. 25, 2023. File Photo Kayode Crown / JTRAN

Jackson residents will soon enjoy a new public transportation system, Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba announced on Monday alongside City Planning and Development Director Chloe Dotson and Deputy Director of Transportation Christine Welch. The new JTRAN system upgrades should be completed by January 2024, Welch said.

“This is one of the most exciting days we’ve had in this city in the last few years,” she said. The announcement comes two years after the City of Jackson first began updating its public transportation routes after 30 years with no changes.

Welch and Dotson announced several updates which include air conditioning and Wi-Fi on all buses, new route signage, more accessible buses, an updated website and an app that would allow riders to keep track of bus routes including arrival and departure times.

“There will be no more calling the City asking, ‘Where’s my bus?’” Welch said, explaining that city leaders had South Jackson, in particular, in mind when planning the upgrades.

“South Jackson currently has one bus. South Jackson will have four. (People) can now function within their community to get to medical, get groceries and get their hair done. These amenities will now be available within your community without having to make an hourslong trip to Union Station to get on a bus and then get where you need to go,” Welch said.

Although the final upgrades will not be completed until 2024, Welch said new signage should be installed over the next 3-4 weeks. Additionally, the City is expanding the JTRAN hours and days of service.

The illustration shows the hourly capacity of a 3-mile wide lane by different modes at peak conditions with normal operations. Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said he envisions a future where Jackson is a multimodal mobility city. Graphic courtesy Global Designing Cities Initiative

“Currently, we pull out at 5 o’clock (in the morning) and your first bus makes it back into Union Station at 6:15 (in the evening). We’ll start pulling out, under the new system, at about 4:30 (in the morning) and the buses will come in now after 8 o’clock (in the evening). We’re no longer going to flip service on Saturdays and put less buses on the street. We will now run six days a week, same service. You will now have some sense of reliability to get where you need to go,” Welch said.

In a press release, the City said riders should continue using their normal bus stop locations throughout the fall. “When the new routes launch in 2024, all bus stops will be equipped with a new sign.”

A 2015 Harvard University study found that commute time is the biggest factor in whether or not a person can escape poverty. Mayor Lumumba echoed similar findings during Monday’s press briefing.

“It is important that as a city we continue to invest in our public transit,” he said. “The greatest statistical connection between generational poverty, more so than education, more so than a number of other factors, is actually commute time—the ability to get from point A to point B, the ability for people to get to the places they need and want to go.”

Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said he intends to make Jackson a multi-modal mobility city that considers the transportation needs of not only motorists but cyclists, pedestrians, those who take public transportation and disabled people who want to travel throughout a city. Graphic courtesy Global Designing Cities Initiative

Lumumba also spoke about the potential for Jackson to become a multi-modal mobility city. Multi-modal mobility is the concept of expanding the planning of transportation access beyond just considering the needs of motorists driving cars but also attempts to meet the needs of bicyclists, pedestrians, public transit riders and those with disabilities who want to travel throughout a city.

“Whatever form of travel you choose, we want to make certain we improve the quality of that for each and every Jackson resident,” he said.

The mayor thanked Jackson transit workers, bus drivers and mechanics who maintain the buses for their continued work. He also expressed his hope that the public transportation system would eventually be free for riders.

“That is the progressive thing to do. It is the radical thing to do. I wear that as a badge of honor. A radical is a person who seeks change. If we see a community in need, if we see a person who does not have what they need to thrive, then the reality is that we should be as radical as the circumstances dictate,” Lumumba said.

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