April 2023 Meeting + This Just In

Here is a report on the discussion during the meeting. I reviewed my experience on Capitol Hill which I’ve written about, so I won’t rehash that here.

#MakeTheAsk I am scheduled to appear at the Fayetteville City Council meeting on April 25th. I was informed that the meeting starts at 5:30 PM. I will ask for dedicated funding for Ozark Regional Transit Authority. Usually this is a quarter ($0.025) sales tax. Yes, I know we are sales taxed out. And the latest sales tax to expand the county jail failed. But if we are going to have a full time, seven days a week transportation services, we need to fund the operation.

Today I learned that Arkansas is going to receive $47,313,029.00 in annual public transportation funding. Of that the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers area will receive $4,059,104.00. The money does not go to fund daily operations. It will go to upgrading transit stations, transitioning to next gen buses (think Battery Electric and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Buses), and designing new corridors. Look at the recent posts by people who tried to design some routes- it’s fun and now it’s funded. Well the studies are anyway. Plus services for the elderly and disabled, which are para-transit operations.

That new route designs are funded is great because I’m also going to ask the City Council for a study on a light rail that will probably run up and down College/71B Highway. I will point out that light rail takes several years in the design and study phase, then several years to build. If we start now, when NWA hits 1.2 million people in a few years the light rail will be up and running.

After this I will start to work on getting Arkansas new routes on the Corridor Identification Program. The much talked about Kansas City to Shreveport, if not New Orleans through NWA Amtrak route. If we get on the list I think we have a much better chance of having Amtrak come through than we might think at first blush. This route can unite the South Central region. As we established above, NWA is going to grow to over 1.2 million people, making us bigger than Tulsa and some of the other Metros around us. I think we will eventually become bigger than Kansas City. I will mark up a rail map soon to show you what the route looks like.

Additionally though Arkansas And Missouri Railroad can refuse to build a commuter rail the company has to host Amtrak. Under the Fair Use Doctrine the railroads have to provide passenger service. The way out of that obligation was the establishment of Amtrak in 1971. Amtrak is a $3 billion a year subsidy to the freight rail industry. By Federal law they have to allow Amtrak to operate on their tracks. I hope we can get at least 3 passenger trains a day. 3 to 4 trains a day will allow people to use the trains to commute.

We also have an important update on something NWA GO has worked on for several years. Last weekend I spoke to Keaton Smith who serves on the Fayetteville Public School Board. He heard our (Margaret and Terry Tremwell and me) presentation on switching to BEBs back in January 2020. I also asked him about going to solar power. The answer is yes to solar, the panels are being installed now. FPSB will get 90% of it’s power from solar cells. And the Board is talking about running a BEB to study the feasibility of switching the fleet. This is great news! NWA GO is available to the Fayetteville School Board for any assistance in this process they might require.

Next there are 2-8 visitors to the NWA GO website most days. And visitors are reading more than one article. That’s very good.

Our NWA GO YouTube Channel now has 15 subscribers and 622 views. Most of those in the last two weeks. If you watch our channel you will see that I have some YouTube Shorts which are 1 minute long videos. If any of you want to make a YouTube Short send it to me at nwago2023@gmail.com and I will post it as long as it is about local transportation issues. We need more content and I know some of you want to help.

2 responses to “April 2023 Meeting + This Just In”

  1. Hello Richard. Very informative memo. Quibble: “what’s a BEB?” “FPSB” was clear from context. I respectfully suggest you (spell out) after the abbreviation first time you use it. VERY interesting how much of the big $$$ the region is already getting — definitely time for citizen input on how to spend it. Also I didn’t know that recipients of federal freight rail money have to host Amtrak.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Richard Billingsley is a community organizer and a writer. Avatar
      Richard Billingsley is a community organizer and a writer.

      A Battery Electric Bus is a BEB. And yes, freight rail companies have had to host Amtrak since 1971.


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