The Rock Region Metro board of directors unanimously approved a resolution Monday to pursue a quarter-cent sales tax to provide dedicated funding for public transit.
Rock Region, formerly known as the Central Arkansas Transit Authority, will present a request for a ballot initiative on the tax to the Pulaski County Quorum Court on Tuesday. A vote on the request is scheduled for Nov. 24.
"In addition to the 20 percent growth in ridership we’ve seen in the last six years, there has been of late a very vocal demand for and high interest in central Arkansas offering more multi-modal transportation, including public transit," Jarod Varner, Rock Region's executive director, said in a news release. "The Move Central Arkansas service plan that this quarter-cent sales tax would fund provides for a more convenient, more accessible public transit system that will contribute to our local economic development and serve those looking for alternate transportation options."
The Move Central Arkansas service calls for:
- rapid transit along major corridors in Little Rock
- cross-town routes in North Little Rock
- increased frequencies along major routes throughout the system
- fixed local route service for the first time to Maumelle, Sherwood, Jacksonville and west Little Rock
- an express route to west Little Rock
- flex zones to better serve less dense areas in the system
- fleet upgrades, technology upgrades and additional shelters
"At this point, we’ve invested a year’s worth of time and effort in the Move Central Arkansas plan, and I’m excited to share it with the community," Varner said. "We know that public transit provides more access to jobs, health care and education; we know it improves our economy; we know it increases property value and puts money back into the hands of our residents; and we know it is a sustainable practice that aids in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants, making way for even more economic development opportunities."
According to Becca Green, director of public engagement for Rock Region Metro, the changes would be important to those who do not use public transportation as well because of the economic improvement.
"Even if one never uses the system, that person will be reaping the rewards of the economic development it brings, especially knowing how important multi-modal transportation is to younger potential employees, which central Arkansas works hard to attract," Green said. "And, public transit helps people age in place. So, maybe someone who doesn’t use public transit now will be glad it’s available to use later in life, if or when he or she needs it. Public transit also helps alleviate traffic congestion, which benefits those who don’t use it as well."