Long-term solution still not determined for public transportation in Tri-Cities

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL) – Members from the a Tri-Cities Regional Transit Summit have still not come up with a permanent solution for public transportation in the area.

News Channel 11 told you last month that leaders from around the region met to discuss the future of public transportation and were trying to come up with a long-term solution before June 30.

This all started back in March, when NET Trans announced it will no longer be able to provide transportation in urbanized areas after April 1, impacting thousands of people.

Then, lawmakers announced funding to keep transportation through June 30.

But now, Rex Montgomery, Transportation Planning Coordinator with the city of Bristol, Tennessee said NET Trans will continue to serve people in urbanized areas after July 1.

“The service is not going to stop, it’s going to continue,” Montgomery said.

He said the state will provide additional funding until a long-term solution is agreed upon.

“This is state funding, this is not federal funding. That’s the whole issue the service provisions,” he said.

Mark Nagi, Community Relations Officer for TDOT, said “The funds we are making available are from a new program. These funds will be available on a recurring basis.  We are asking for a dollar-for-dollar match from local sources. State funding for transit operations in urban areas should be subordinate to local funding. 

In the Tri-Cities area, NET-TRANS and the local governments in the urbanized area will need to determine the amount of local funding available from all sources, including local tax dollars and contract revenue.” 

News Channel 11 told you back in March, the Tennessee Department of Transportation conducted a compliance audit and determined that NET Trans gets funding for rural areas, but is providing transportation in urban areas.

At the Tri-Cities Regional Transit Summit meeting early last month, leaders discussed current services and funding in Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City.

We were told meetings will continue until a long-term solution is agreed on, but Montgomery says no other meetings have happened since May 8.

“No there has not,” he said. “There has not been any other meetings scheduled at this point.”

He says there have been discussions that NET Trans will received urbanized area funding so it can continue to serve its customers, as well as additional state funding.

But for now, he says he’s just glad to see the service continue as it always has.

“As long as the service is being provided, that’s the major issue for all of us. I think we just wanted a win-win situation. The panic is over right now so it’s just time to find a more sustainable long-term solution,” Montgomery said.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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