NRouteCommission vacancies, ineffiency plague system

Published 11:50 pm Saturday, October 6, 2012

Clearly, taxpayer subsidized public transportation is not expected to reap financial windfalls. The nature of the business of public transportation is to provide a necessary service as efficiently as possible in an attempt to balance the books. Losses are expected.

Then there is NRoute.

Vicksburg’s public transportation system is incredibly inefficient, always with hands extended looking for more money to balance its books. An exhaustive report in The Vicksburg Post showed the system has a fare system that makes little sense, sometimes charging full fares, sometimes just a portion and sometimes none at all. Ridership is sluggish. Buses are sometimes on time, but there is no way of knowing what route the buses ride. A marquis atop the front of the bus remains blank because of a lack of funding.

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Yet the NRoute commission keeps asking for more. NRoute requested almost $264,000 from the city in the 2012-13 budget year, which began Monday, almost double the amount the city provided in the previous fiscal year’s budget and in addition to a couple of monthly bailouts near the end of the year. The city, wisely, denied the latest request and continued to fund the system at the $135,000 annual level. The county will continue to contribute $30,100.

Commissioners — the few who actually are on the board — cried foul, blaming the City of Vicksburg, Warren County, the down economy and even this newspaper for reporting the dire conditions of the system. Did the city board members react as a result of that report? Or were they aware of the financial mess of the system before the information was published?

We fault the city, too, for not filling the positions on the NRoute board. Mark Buys has served almost two years past his term’s expiration. Don Brown’s term expired in February, and the term for the third member, Alvin Taylor, will expire in February 2013, just months away. Rose Carson resigned in 2010 and Dianne Gawronski resigned in 2011. Neither of their positions have been filled. These expired and unfilled spots are failure of the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Some meetings have been canceled for lack of a quorum — the minimum number of people needed to hold an official meeting (in this case, all three seated board members). Because of the city’s lackluster efforts in addressing this problem, one NRoute member’s scheduling conflict translates into no meeting.

If NRoute is to continue, officials need to assure an already skeptical public that: 1. The system will be run efficiently, which we believe is not being done. 2. The system will become more user-friendly, with maps and signs, consistent stops and fair and equal fare practices; and 3. The city board shows a bit of urgency in filling the open commission spots.

While we do not expect the system to fund city government, it would be nice for taxpayers to know they are getting the most bang for their buck. As it is now, there is little bang for a whole lot of bucks.