NRoute operations budget to be discussed at public hearing

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 15, 2009

Residents can have a say on the NRoute budget and the municipal transit system’s operations at a hearing at the Jackson Street Community Center at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

If you go

A hearing on the NRoute Transportation Commission’s fiscal year 2010 budget will be Tuesday evening at the Jackson Street Community Center, 923 Walnut St., beginning at 6.

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NRoute Executive Director Evelyn Bumpers said a proposed budget similar to the current one — with total spending around $650,000 to $700,000 — will be presented at the annual hearing for fiscal year 2010.

“Each year we allow the public to express their opinions on whether or not they’re benefitting from NRoute, and provide some ideas on how we could improve our services,” said Bumpers.

Included in the budget will be potential pay raises of up to 3 percent for all employees, based on performance reviews. There are 14 employees on the NRoute staff, with three in the administrative office, six full-time and five part-time drivers.

Although the new fiscal year will not begin until Oct. 1, Bumpers said NRoute is required to submit a grant application package to state and federal transportation agencies early on in the year. Of the current budget, Bumpers said about $225,000 is provided by the City of Vicksburg, $35,000 comes from Warren County and federal grant money accounts for the remainder except for the small portion of total costs offset by fares collected from riders.

The NRoute Transportation Commission is working on contracting with a company to sell ads to be placed on buses, bus stops and benches. The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved in December a measure to allow the transportation commission to sell ads. 

“We’re in the process now of getting all of our information together and contacting companies to see if they’re interested,” said Bumpers, who noted a company in Monroe, La., has shown interest in selling the ads. “We’re asking that company to come over and ride some of the routes to see if this is something they actually want to participate in.”

The transit system, launched in June 2006, has lost all corporate sponsors since garnering an initial $320,000 in tax-deductible pledges from local businesses. Mayor Laurence Leyens, an advocate of the system who has pledged continued funding, still criticized the transportation commission in 2008 for its inability to raise funds through corporate sponsorships. Bumpers said NRoute is still soliciting businesses for sponsorships, but the economy has made efforts particularly challenging.

Ridership numbers as tallied by NRoute bus drivers have been rising consistently since the transit system was introduced, and the number of buses and routes have also increased. The original fleet of six mini-buses purchased with a $1 federal grant was increased to nine in May 2008, while the number of routes grew from seven to nine in May 2007. Saturday service was added in October.

Through Jan. 28, 18,053 passengers used NRoute buses since October, compared with 10,121 riders from the same period a year previous and 7,353 passengers two years ago. The current pace calculates to one new passenger per bus every 30 minutes.

Initially operated as a department of the City of Vicksburg, NRoute was spun off as an independent utility in February 2007 and the transportation commission was formed in August 2007. NRoute buses currently operate weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., except holidays, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.


Contact Steve Sanoski at