Goals For the New Year and Beyond

I realize some of what I and others post here may sound contradictory to some of our readers. We write about buses, then trains, then this, then that. So some explanations are in order. We as a group have several goals we are working to achieve. As in any other group we have some short term goals for this year, some medium term for 2 to 5 years from now, and some that are long term goals, 5+ years from now.

Even our medium and long term goals have actions we need to take this year so that we may have a fair chance of reaching them. First let’s take a look at the goals specifically and then at some of the actions we want to take this year.

Our short term goal for this year is to get dedicated funding for Ozark Regional Transit Authority done by Election Day next November. This is key to success in making everything else happen. I agree with those of you who think stake holders like Wal-Mart Corporation need to peel off some bills to help pay for this. Not just WM but other major stake holders as well. Let’s think of this as finishing funds. In any metro area, and NWA is a metro area, that has excellent public transportation also has dedicated funding. That is money that is just for transit that the RTA can depend on year after year. This is usually a sales tax. The plan that ORTA has in mind is to ask the Four Cities for a quarter cent sales tax. ORTA can use this money to expand operations to 7 days a week, 15 – 20 hours a day, with more frequent buses, and more routes too.

Our medium term goals include getting battery electric buses or BEBs on the road. Once the sale tax is passed it will take a couple of years to get all the expansion of service implemented. The dedicated funding is also needed to buy BEBs, charging equipment, and train technicians to service the new buses. There are grants available for this but these grants require dedicated funding to qualify. This is when we ask the major stake holders for money as well. Walmart may fund an extra BEB or two. Or maybe a solar powered recharge station. That will be huge.

Our longer term goals are to reintroduce passenger rail to NWA. Passenger rail can take several forms. There is regional or intercity rail. We have discussed longer intercity routes between Kansas City and Dallas with a major station in NWA. Or an intercity route from Memphis through Little Rock to Dallas with a spur from NWA to LR. Rail can also be in the form of a regional rail that links the Four Cities and smaller communities in NWA as a commuter service. Last rail can also take the form of light rail. For instance, a tram that runs from XNA to Walmart World Headquarters in Bentonville. Or a tram that runs up and down College Ave in Fayetteville between Cato Springs aka Fayette Junction and NWA Mall. Many of us are anxious for rail to return soon. However, the realities of modifying or building railroads means it will take several years even if we can start working on it this year.

That these projects will take some time doesn’t mean that there is nothing to do this year. Ah, contraire my friends. We have elections this year and we can move the ball down the field. We need elected officials who are at least sympathetic to our goals if not 100% with us. There are two special elections in the next month or so. One is for a vacant State Senate District 7 seat in Tonitown, and another is for Fayetteville City Council Ward 2. These are local elections that have a major impact on meeting our goals. These elections will have a small turnout and that means a dedicated group can make a big difference in how the election goes. Say about 200 people or so working for a policy. And we have over 600 in our group. I am in the process of asking candidates about their policy stances in mass transportation which I will report to you, the members of the group. I will report these results as I hear from candidates.

Disclaimer, ORBTS won’t tell you who to vote for. You will have to look at how the candidates respond and determine for yourself who you vote or volunteer for, both in the February special election if you are in that Ward or District, or later in November. So keep your eyes peeled we have a lot of information coming at you. And there are going to be many opportunities for you to contribute as a volunteer or buying some of our merch so we can finance our campaign to bring economic development, cleaner air, and lower the cost of living in NWA.

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