County transit authority likely to sign contract today

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

The long-awaited final act that will give Cape Girardeau County Transit Authority control of public transportation inside Cape Girardeau city limits should be completed today.

A contract detailing what parts of Kelley Transportation Co. Inc. the authority will purchase for $360,000 was finished Monday and, barring any last-minute glitches, will be signed today, said Jeff Brune, executive director of the authority.

The signing comes less than four weeks before the July 1 date when the authority will begin offering countywide service. Up to now, the authority provided transportation services into and out of Cape Girardeau but could not transport clients between locations inside the city.

The authority plans to begin running a fixed-route bus in Cape Girardeau beginning the first week of July, the first regularly scheduled route within the city in decades.

The first bus should arrive this week, Brune said.

The delay in finishing the contract was unavoidable, he said.

"It was nothing we couldn't get around, but there were different things on a covenant not to compete, and most of it was legalese that the attorneys were working on," Brune said.

Kelley Transportation, owned by Kimberley and Terrence Kelley, has operated a taxi service that held a contract with the city to provide public transportation. Patrons could purchase a limited number of coupons each month through a program subsidized by the Missouri Department of Transportation.

County Commissioner Jay Purcell said he called Brune at the transit authority after receiving a phone call from Kimberley Kelley, who was upset because the city sent out a request for bids to operate the coupon system for another year.

"I called Jeff on Tuesday night at home and told him they can't dilly-dally around," Purcell said during a meeting of the Cape Girardeau County Commission.

In addition to the bus route, the transit authority will operate a taxi service and a courier service currently part of the Kelleys' business. Those services will help provide income that can be used to match federal and state grants to build up the transit system, Brune said.

The transit authority continues to hire drivers, Brune said. The biggest need is for nighttime taxi drivers and bus drivers, he said. All of the transit system's vehicles carry fewer than 15 passengers, he said, and drivers need only a chauffeur's license, not a commercial driver's license, to apply.

The authority has decided to retain its current name rather than attempt to come up with a clever new moniker, Brune said. "We fought long and hard to get the transit authority name itself. We worked long and hard to create a good reputation for that name."

Details are still sketchy on how operations will be conducted, but some items have been decided. The fare for the bus will be $1.50 for adults and $1 for senior citizens and the disabled, with bus hours set for 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The authority plans to run shuttles between smaller towns and Cape Girardeau to bring people to a central location where they can transfer to other vehicles to take them to their destinations. A regularly scheduled system, officials have said, would designate one or two days a week when the shuttles would operate based on demand.

The authority will continue to run on-demand services to those locations as well, officials have said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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