StunningNefficient, Nconsistant, NRoute

Published 10:03 pm Saturday, September 8, 2012

The numbers surrounding NRoute are eye-popping.

Since Vicksburg’s public transit system began rolling in 2006, an estimated $4.3 million has been spent keeping its buses running. That’s compared with $235,710 collected in fares.

Granted, $2.8 million comes from federal grants — a source some wrongly consider “free money” — but the city alone has spent $1.3 million.

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That’s simply not a sustainable enterprise, no matter how one looks at it.

No one expects public transportation to be a booming business, but spending 16 times what the program brings in simply isn’t acceptable.

It’s not all about the numbers, however.

From June 27 to July 12 members of The Vicksburg Post news staff rode various routes and recorded their observations. Their reports weren’t good.

Very few (if any) passengers, inconsistent routes and erratically charged fares were the norm. Something as simple as drivers making correct change wasn’t always an option since they had no access to cash.

NRoute executive director Evelyn Bumpers and other NRoute commissioners were rightfully concerned about the report from The Vicksburg Post and have vowed to take steps.

It might be beyond anyone’s fixing.

At a time when cities and counties everywhere are pinching pennies just to keep the bare necessities funded, NRoute is drowning in red ink.

Bumpers defended the system saying “For every dollar that’s spent, it turns over six times.”

We understand what she means, but those dollars are turning over the wrong way.

It might be a feather in Vicksburg’s hat to say we have a public transit system, and even in its current condition it might be of value to some area residents and visitors, but spending $4.3 million to bring in $235,710 is simply insane.

In a perfect world, a public transit system is a wonderful thing and a boon to the community it serves, but unless a better business model can be found, NRoute will continue to be a drain on Vicksburg’s resources.