Council concerned by Hub City Transit complaints

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - After receiving complaints from residents, Hattiesburg City Council members say they are looking into issues with the city's paratransit system since the January tornado.

Hub City Transit runs regular, fixed bus routes and separate, scheduled paratransit routes for people with medical needs, but council members say they recently found out the paratransit service stopped after city buses were destroyed in the storm.

"I thought that service was still being rendered, but now we're told that they stopped that," said, Carter Carroll, Hattiesburg City Council president. "There are some people that needed office visits that didn't have transportation (to) Hattiesburg Clinic, an eye doctor, dentist appointment, dialysis, a mammogram. All these people were told that the transit system was not working."

Lakeylah White, director for the city's department of federal and state programs, the paratransit buses and computer system were wiped out in the tornado, so they can't run a full service as usual.

"We don't have a system that's up and running to have a regular paratransit service fully functioning as we normally do," White said.

On top of that, the department said the buses donated from Coast Transit Authority the city's using are not handicap accessible, and it has to use the paratransit van on regular routes.

"If a bus on a fixed route said, 'Hey, there's a wheelchair here, and they need to be picked up,' dispatch will call them," said Vincent Nelms, division for Hub City Transit. "That bus that was used for paratransit services also would go get that individual and transport in the van that was handicap accessible."

Carroll said he doesn't see any reason the city can't use the paratransit vans for both services.

"We got a lot of excuses," Carroll said. "I just think it's poor planning on their part."

Carroll said it is a waste of money to pay paratransit drivers to wait on a call for a pick up on fixed route that may never come, and said council will be looking into the payroll for those drivers since the storm.