SPRINGDALE -- The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission is adding a full-time staff member to focus on public transit.
Commissioners approved the move Wednesday afternoon. A three-year, $321,993 grant from the Walton Family Foundation will help pay for the position. The commission also has money available from an open position.
The commission adopted a regional transportation plan, Connect Northwest Arkansas, last year. The new planner will be responsible for coordinating, managing and implementing the plan. The planner also will oversee outreach to engage the public in transit projects and to improve participation in public transit.
The commission receives federal money for public transit and is responsible for public transit planning in the area. It allocates about $3 million a year in transit funding. Planners said they expect the region will be getting more money, based on growth since the 2010 census.
The region has two public transit providers, Ozark Regional Transit and University of Arkansas Razorback Transit. A key role for the new hire will be coordinating with those providers and helping human services organizations with acquiring vans to transport clients.
Connect Northwest Arkansas, the 10-year public transportation development plan, looks at every aspect of public transit in the region and makes recommendations to improve and to increase service and the coverage area.
It envisions expanded routes and on-demand service in the region's urban areas.
Individual plans within Connect Northwest Arkansas have been developed specifically for Ozark Regional Transit and Razorback Transit to define their roles in a regional system. Individual plans also have been developed for each of the four major cities.
Work on Connect Northwest Arkansas was commissioned and paid for by the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission.