Close this search box.

Jackson’s JTRAN Route Expansion Hits Snag With Ridgeland in Blow to Public-Transit Accessibility

Disability-rights activist Scott Crawford said on March 13, 2024, that the City of Jackson, Miss., should do more to ensure JTRAN riders have safer access to businesses on East County Line Road. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

JACKSON, Miss.—Will Devine was still moving when he blacked out nearly 10 years ago and walked across North State Street while on his frequent route to a CVS in Jackson, Miss. The disabled military veteran heard the sound of screeching tires as a driver hit the brakes upon seeing him walking aimlessly in the road.

“I walked out in front of a car. A big ol’ Cadillac,” Devine recalled in an interview with the Mississippi Free Press on March 12. “I’m glad they were looking.”

He went to the local VA office that day and told them what had happened. “That’s when I found out I was diabetic. I would have dizzy spells,” he said. “When I found out I was sick, the medications they put me on—it made me drowsy.”

A seated man with walking cane in hand, wearing matching red Marines tshirt and cap
Will Devine said in an interview on March 12, 2024, that he has been completely dependent on using public transportation for more than a decade. He wants people to understand that he and disability-rights activist Scott Crawford are “two of the individuals fighting for senior citizens and the disabled that ride the JTRAN bus” in Jackson, Miss., he said. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

A native of Dallas, Texas, Devine would occasionally ride the city bus when he didn’t want to drive before moving to Jackson over two decades ago. But after the medical scare in Jackson, he grew more and more dependent on public transit and now completely relies on it.

Grocery shopping. Appointments at the VA. Going to get food for his cat. With his walking cane and a knee brace or two in tow, Devine uses Jackson’s public-transportation system, JTRAN, to do it all. “I can’t get nowhere fast but as long as I can get around, I’m happy,” he said.

But Devine said he was frustrated after learning recently that the City amended its plan to create JTRAN drop-off and pick-up points at the Walmart Supercenter and Northpark Mall on East County Line Road; those dropoffs would have entered into the City of Ridgeland, whose suburban mayor rejected the plans.

“The mayor from Ridgeland said ‘no.’ That’s crazy,” Devine said. While the Jackson resident typically gets his shopping done at the Walmart on Greenway Drive, he was excited to have the option to add some variety to his routine.

“Going to Walmart and the mall off County Line was two things that I was really looking forward to,” he continued. “Where the (JTRAN) drop-off points are, it’s too far for me to walk. It’s not fair.”

‘A New Route System Formed By The Community’

The City of Jackson began implementing new JTRAN routes on March 4. Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba held a press conference and ribbon cutting at Union Station to commemorate the start of the new upgrades which include an app, new signage and a new fixed-route system—the culmination of a nearly five-year planning and implementation process for their ConnectJXN Transit Plan.

“We have a new route system that was formed by the community. We’re really excited about what JTRAN offers today,” the mayor said. Lumumba reiterated that he intends to move Jackson toward becoming a multi-modal mobility city that accommodates pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and riders of public transit. Repaving Jackson’s streets, notorious in recent years for their potholes, is also part of that plan, he said.

“While America’s rural population declined by more than half a million people, small town and rural public transit ridership has increased nearly eight percent (7.8 percent) from 2007 to 2015,” a 2017 American Public Transportation Association (APTA) study states. Graphic courtesy of The APTA

The Jackson mayor also commented on the City’s stunted plan to place bus stops at the Walmart Supercenter and Northpark Mall, which technically crosses into the City of Ridgeland on East County Line Road.

“There was an effort to expand JTRAN services into Ridgeland at the Walmart so that those people that need to go and get groceries that are on that side of town can do that,” he said. “We wanted to have an intermodal agreement where we could see that take place. That was initially denied.”

City of Jackson Deputy Director of Transportation Christine Welch confirmed to the Mississippi Free Press on March 12 that because of rider demand, the Office of Planning and Development had planned for JTRAN routes 10 and 15 to have stops close to the Walmart Supercenter and Northpark Mall.

“We originally designed the route to turn in and go around Northpark and come back down on Wheatley (Street),” Welch said. “There’s a lot of people who ride the bus who have to cross over County Line Road to get to Northpark or go to Walmart. (But) we couldn’t come to an agreement with Ridgeland on crossing into there or going to Northpark Mall,” she said.

As a result of the stalled negotiations with Ridgeland on the route, Welch said, the City of Jackson opted to shorten the route. “We had to tweak the route a little bit, which means if you’re going to Walmart or Northpark Mall, you’re going to have to walk a little bit, about a block and a half,” she said.

That means that the elderly and those with disabilities, who typically make up the ridership of public transit in smaller or more rural cities, would have to make the trek on foot or on wheels from the final bus stops to get to the Walmart Supercenter and even further to get to Northpark Mall.

One stop is at the intersection of Ridgewood Court Drive and the Ridgewood Court Shopping Center while the other stop is at East County Line Road and Ridgewood Road.

It takes at least a 15-minute walk through grass, unpaved gravel, uneven sidewalks and parking lots to avoid traffic. In some areas where there is no sidewalk, people have to walk as close to the curb as possible.

Ridgeland Mayor Proposes Regional Transit Authority

Disability-rights advocate Scott Crawford told the Mississippi Free Press on March 13 that city leaders should do more to make sure that everyone, regardless of their mode of transportation, can dine and shop wherever they would like without having to risk their safety to do so.

Crawford, a former neuropsychologist, retired from his practice after doctors diagnosed him with a rapidly progressive form of multiple sclerosis in 1999. He uses a motorized wheelchair to get around.

Headshot of a man wearing a light grey suit and glasses
Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee said in a Dec. 6, 2023, letter to disability-rights activist Scott Crawford that he did not allow JTRAN’s Walmart and Northpark Mall routes because “JTRAN is a service provided by another municipality” and “Ridgeland has no input into how that service or its facilities are managed or operated.” He proposed an intergovernmental regional transit authority instead in an interview with the Mississippi Free Press on March 14, 2024. Photo courtesy City of Ridgeland

In November, Crawford wrote a letter to Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee pleading for more consideration for the now-stalled routes on East County Line Road. He shared that and several follow-up letters with the Mississippi Free Press on Feb. 22.

“JTRAN is simply vital to people like me, and many others who cannot drive due to a disability,” Crawford wrote to Mayor McGee on Nov. 28, 2023. “Being able to get to Northpark Mall, the businesses along County Line Road, and Walmart is literally a ‘life-saver’ for us. The solution is both simple and easy. We urge you to welcome our buses—our primary and only safe mode of transit—to Ridgeland.”

In a letter McGee wrote to Crawford in response on Dec. 6, 2023, the Ridgeland mayor said that “because JTRAN is a service provided by another municipality, Ridgeland has no input into how that service or its facilities are managed or operated.”

“As a result, Ridgeland would have no control over ensuring a safe service that would benefit both the City as well as all segments of its population,” he wrote.

In the letter, McGee also said that the City of Ridgeland is open to supporting “an intergovernmental regional transit authority if such a proposal was a sound option for the greater metro area and if Ridgeland would have representation in the operation of such a service.”

This screenshot shows the JTRAN route that stops before the Walmart Supercenter and Northpark Mall on East County Line Road. Graphic from

McGee reiterated those statements in an interview with the Mississippi Free Press on March 14.

“Our position has been that we have long held that there should be a look at an intergovernmental, regional transit authority which would take in all the cities in the metropolitan area, not just pick out one area so that people could have the opportunity to shop and to go to a different area,” he said.

“Now, the other part of that is that it should have someone representing these other cities on a board so that the decisions made about it are made in a regional manner with a good reorganization of the system rather than having one entity run the system without any input from any other cities,” the Ridgeland mayor continued. “So that’s our position. We think that those conversations ought to take place through the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District and look at a comprehensive plan, not just piecemeal it.”

McGee also said he had not had any communication with Jackson Mayor Lumumba about the routes.

“Mayor Lumumba has never been in negotiations with us, never called us, never asked us,” McGee said. Lumumba stated during his press conference on March 4 that while he hadn’t specifically talked to the Mayor of Ridgeland himself about the routes, he was drafting communications about the issue.

‘Delayed Does Not Mean Denied’

Jackson’s Deputy Director of Transportation Christine Welch told the Mississippi Free Press on March 13 that she encourages persons with disabilities to apply for JTRAN’s on-demand paratransit service. It’s a “curb-to-curb transportation service for individuals whose disability prevents them from using regularly scheduled JTRAN buses—permanently, temporarily, or under certain circumstances,” the JTRAN website states.

“But that’s only for persons with disabilities who we can certify have disabilities. You actually go through a whole medical process to receive that service,” she said. The on-demand, curb-to-curb service is also 50 cents more expensive per trip than a one-way trip on JTRAN’s fixed-route system.

“But even then, it’s a good deal,” Welch said.

Headshot of a woman with lightly greying long braids and wearing glasses
Jackson’s Deputy Director of Transportation Christine Welch said on March 12, 2024, that she celebrates the rebranding and upgrades to JTRAN but acknowledged that there is more work to be done. Photo courtesy Christine Welch, City of Jackson

JTRAN riders who do not have a documented disability and do not qualify for the paratransit, door-to-door option but want to access the Walmart Supercenter and Northpark Mall on East County Line Road would still have to cross East County Line Road to do so.

But Welch said the work isn’t done and it’s important to celebrate how much JTRAN has grown over the years. “For the bigger picture of what we wanted to achieve for the citizens of Jackson, I am very proud that we achieved that.”

She’s still hopeful that with continued communication among the municipalities in the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, the cities can reach a compromise that will benefit riders interested in that area. “Delayed does not mean denied,” Welch said.

Can you support the Mississippi Free Press?

The Mississippi Free Press is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) focused on telling stories that center all Mississippians.

With your gift, we can do even more important stories like this one.