TN Rural Transit Jeopardized by Lack of Federal Funding
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Who funds regional transportation is a growing issue as the state's rural population expands outside of city limits.
NET Trans in northeast Tennessee is one example. It serves 48 percent of the coverage area in the region but receives no federal funding.
That's expected to change soon, now that the Johnson City Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization approved a measure that would allow NET Trans to receive federal funds.
Candace Gump, director of transportation for the First Tennessee Human Resource Agency, the administrator of NET Trans, explains why the move is important.
"We feel like the funding should follow the service, so if we're providing the service we should receive a portion of the funding to cover the expenses for the services being provided," she explained.
Currently, the federal funding goes to municipal transportation services that don't provide coverage outside their city limits. There are nine regional agencies in the state that provide services such as transportation. Earlier this year, the East Tennessee Human Resources Agency announced it would shut down pay-per-ride services in Anderson, Loudon and Sevier counties.
Gump says before the path was cleared this week for federal money, NET Trans announced it could no longer provide transportation, but local and state leaders took quick action because of a demonstrated need to help people get to work and doctor's appointments.
"We would like to think that people use our services because we provide a good service, but the reality of it is that people use our services because they need us," she said. "They don't have any other way to get where they're going."
Until the federal money is made available, the Tennessee Department of Transportation is providing emergency funding to continue service through June 30.