City set to hire consultant for transit strategic plan

Tony Hammond displays his support for Jefferson City’s public transportation program as he and a number of Citizens for JeffTran members attend the city council transit work session on Monday afternoon at City Hall.

Tony Hammond displays his support for Jefferson City’s public transportation program as he and a number of Citizens for JeffTran members attend the city council transit work session on Monday afternoon at City Hall. Photo by Kris Wilson.

The Jefferson City Council is moving forward with a request for proposals process to hire a consultant, who would help draft a strategic plan for the city’s transit system.

At a City Council work session Monday that was devoted to the city’s transit system, City Administrator Steve Crowell presented a few staff recommendations to examine or improve transit, focusing on the city’s cost to operate the transit system. One recommendation was to “engage a consultant to develop a strategic plan for transit.” Council members unanimously approved a motion to direct staff to begin drafting a request for proposals for a new consultant. Third Ward Councilman Ken Hussey was not present at Monday’s work session.

Crowell said the strategic plan would focus on what the city wants to accomplish with transit and when, laying out three to five year plan for the system. He emphasized it would not be like a study done in 2006, which made a series of recommendations on improvements for the transit system with only a small few being eventually implemented.

“The world has changed since 2006,” Crowell said.

Fifth Ward Councilman Larry Henry and 4th Ward Councilman Glen Costales both expressed a desire to first look within the community or to information available through other cities before hiring an outside consultant, which is estimated to cost $50,000 to $75,000. Crowell said it would be more beneficial to have an independent and objective person look at the system and tell the city what other communities are doing, what federal funding is being missed and other ways to help the transit finances, and Mayor Eric Struemph agreed.

“I think it’s going to take an outside resource,” Struemph said.

Crowell said the transit system costs about $2.5 million to run annually, with about $1 million coming from the general fund and the majority of the rest from federal and state grants.

Third Ward Councilman Bob Scrivner said the Citizens for JeffTran group has been advocating for increased service and continues to do so when the city has said they can’t provide it. Scrivner said having an outside consultant look at the system may be the only way to settle the issue for the citizens group.

“We have evaluated this to the best of our ability,” Scrivner said. “I don’t know any other way to get that validation.”

Crowell said the process of setting a strategic plan would involve a number of meetings with the public to get a picture of what the community wants out of its transit service. Crowell said the RFP process likely would take about six months.

The council also soon may act on a proposed transit advisory group, an idea that came from the Citizens for JeffTran group.

The transit advisory group was not a scheduled topic for Monday’s meeting, but 4th Ward Councilman Carlos Graham brought up the issue and asked that they move forward with the idea.

The Citizens for JeffTran began asking for some type of advisory group in spring 2013 and recently revived the issue in early June, making a formal presentation and suggesting members for the group. Graham said he didn’t want the issue to be pushed back anymore and at least two other council members agreed.

“To not have (an advisory group), I don’t understand that,” Henry said. “We need one and I don’t understand why we keep dragging it out.”

Transit supporters in the audience cheered at comments from Graham, Henry and Costales supporting the movement on the transit group. Graham volunteered to take the lead and start drafting an ordinance with City Attorney Drew Hilpert to bring to a council committee in the next month.

“I’ll be more than happy to take that up,” Graham said.

Henry also volunteered to help draft the ordinance.

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