Transit project could change the way Selma gets around

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Tina Price was so proud of her bus that she offered rides to just about anyone who approached her Saturday during the Jubilee festivities.

Even the scheduled 45-minute press ride to the Highland Avenue Hampton Inn was turned into a nearly hour-and-half tour of the city after Price offered drop people off at various destinations.

On elderly woman in particular, Sonya Sikes, was walking from downtown Selma to the Epworth House when Price offered her a ride.

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“I have to walk often because I don’t have money for a cab,” Sikes said. “I think it would be good if we (Selma) had a bus like this.”

Getting a local shuttle system is a goal Price, executive secretary of the Friends of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Voting Rights Trail, is trying to accomplish.

Price, along with the other members of NHVRT, is pushing state and federal government to fund a shuttle service for Dallas, Lowndes and Perry counties.

Last month the NHVRT began a campaign to get U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby to allocate $2 million in federal funds for the establishment of a Rural Tour/Transportation District and Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) for the Black Belt, which would essentially be a shuttle service the public could use to travel between the three counties.

The NHVRT invited Dick Rief, designer of the yellow bus selected for the project, to bring the bus to Selma this weekend to show it off and introduce the shuttle concept to city officials.

Rief said he is already working with Yellowstone National Park to build six buses for a shuttle service that would span across three states and two national parks.

“This is an everybody bus,” he said. “It’s got a low floor and has easy access.”

The 17-passenger bus had water-proof floors and seats, cup and magazine holders, a tv, and large floor-to-ceiling windows.

Rief said the bus costs between $110,000 to $130,000.

“A central transportation agency could be established to recruit Central Alabama agencies to use the bus for a fee. When it’s not being leased, it could be used to shuttle citizens around Selma, or take people back and forth between Selma and Montgomery, or used for tourists,” Rief said.

Bob Wood, a tourist from Michigan who viewed the bus at one of its stops, said a shuttle service during Jubilee would have been ideal.

“I think it’s a great idea, especially for someone who gets intimidated by traveling in a new city,” he said.

Daniel Wait, general manager of the Hampton Inn, said he also believed a shuttle service is needed in Selma.

“I haven’t had a big demand for shuttles from businessman who are traveling to Selma,” he said. “But, I think it would be ideal at events like Jubilee, Riverfront Market Day and the Pilgrimage.”

Price said there is currently no transportation legislation in Alabama.

“Plans are being revamped (to create a Black Belt ITS),” she said. “I’m getting a lot of interest from the City of Montgomery.”

Price said she has no set goal on when a shuttle system could come to Selma, but she’s hoping that with a little cooperation, residents like Sonya Sikes will not have to walk across town much longer.