It has been a nearly 15-year-long trip from start to finish to build a regional transfer station for the Jonesboro Economical Transportation System. The proverbial trip ends at 11 a.m. Friday (Oct. 23) with the grand opening of the facility.
Jonesboro Transit Director Steve Ewart said the 2,000-square-foot building at Caraway Road and Matthews Avenue will serve as the hub for the city’s transportation system, and will be an asset for the city for the next 25 to 30 years.
City officials began discussing the pros and cons of creating the system in 2000, with council members approving the plan in 2005. The first bus left to pick up passengers in May 2006 and has been busy ever since, Ewart said.
“Our job is to get people from one place to another,” Ewart said of JETS.
The program has a $1.3 million budget with 20 employees. Ewart said the new center will have no impact on the JETS budget, which is already funded through the Federal Transit Administration and the city of Jonesboro. A small part of the budget – $70,000 – comes from fares that are paid by riders. Ewart said the amount is typical for cities the size of Jonesboro.
The buses, which had 100,000 riders in 2014, pick up passengers at several sites in Jonesboro. The buses run on a Monday through Friday schedule and are also used on Saturdays during Arkansas State University football games.
Ewart said the program has had to use a temporary site – a parking lot – on Caraway Road for several years before the center was built.
Ewart said the new center is the middle of town and is within driving distance of Arkansas State University, the Medical Mile, the Jonesboro Regional Airport, U.S. 49 and U.S. 63. Ground was broken in April 2015 for the new center.
Bailey Contractors of Jonesboro received the contract to build the transfer station, for $1.136 million while Cromwell Architects Engineers of Little Rock drew up the plans. Ewart said officials began working on the project in 2011. A series of sidewalks were also built along Matthews Avenue from Jonesboro Country Club to the center, to help make the walk to the station a little safer.
Ewart said the JETS program has helped college students and people without vehicles travel to downtown Jonesboro for business. The program also plans to work with several other transportation providers, like the Northeast Arkansas Transit System and the Black River Area Development transit system on a regional program to help bring visitors to Jonesboro, Ewart said.
Greyhound is also interested in using the center as a stop for people traveling either to Memphis and Little Rock, Ewart said, noting the main obstacle is that JETS operates on a five day a week schedule while Greyhound runs seven days a week.