June 28th 2016, Ozark Regional Transit celebrated a major milestone in expansion and development. In 2014, a transportation tax was passed that would offer, or turnback, additional funds to local city and county municipalities for road infrastructure and road projects. Public transportation is considered under the "road projects" portion of the new funding.
ORT's Executive Director, Joel Gardner, initiated a campaign focused toward local city and county municipalities for a portion of the "turnback" funding, and many municipalities approved additional funding for public transportation. As a result, ORT has grown from an eight-route system in 2013, to a 14-route system in 2015; an almost two-fold increase in routes and services.
With this new source of funding, existing routes were redesigned in such a way that Johnson, Arkansas, also received bus service.
The last, and possibly most significant route in this grand expansion began operating June 2, 2014. Route 620 connected the more rural towns of Farmington, Greenland, Lincoln, Prairie Grove, and West Fork to Fayetteville and the rest of the bus system.
These changes impacted a cumulative population of nearly 19,000 people whom previously had no fixed route public transportation in their hometowns.
ORT receives the larges percentage of it's funding from federal sources. The significance of these routes being sustained for two years is in the way these federal funding sources view fixed route, public transportation and how the system is funding going forward.
Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse, Former Springdale Mayor Jerre Van Hoose, Springdale Chamber Vice President Bill Rogers, and State Representative Lance Eads spoke at yesterday's event.
Pictured (left to right): State Rep. Lance Eads, ORT Executive Director Joel Gardner, Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse, Former Springdale Mayor Jerre Van Hoose, and State Rep. Jim Dotson.