Ozark Regional Transit consultant begins work to implement new board structure, transit plan

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 542 views 

Springdale-based transit provider Ozark Regional Transit Authority (ORT) has started to work with a consultant to help implement a new board structure and a 10-year transit plan. Meanwhile, the transit provider’s ridership increased in July.

Last month, ORT board members hired consultant Abby Foster, founder and managing principal of Bella Vista-based Ahnimisha Consulting, to help ORT implement Connect Northwest Arkansas, a 10-year transit development plan to improve and expand transit in Northwest Arkansas. ORT Executive Director Joel Gardner estimated the cost for the consultant to be $10,000 but said a better estimate would be available in the coming weeks. Foster’s facilitation fee is $250 per hour, according to ORT documents.

In a board meeting Thursday (Aug. 26), Foster discussed hosting a series of meetings related to restructuring the board and establishing its purpose, advocacy role for mobility and engagement efforts in the region. The first meeting was proposed to take place in the next four weeks, be in person and last five hours. It would regard restructuring the board based on participation and proportional representation based on local matching funds. The existing board comprises eight board members from four counties and the four largest cities in Northwest Arkansas.

Board members said the board restructuring should be completed first before making other decisions.

Tom Kieklak, attorney representing ORT, explained the cities and counties with board representation might need to approve the bylaws related to the changes that may come about in the restructuring.

In July, total ORT ridership rose by 22.6% to 14,659, from 11,963. Between January and July, ridership fell by 17.5% to 92,554, from 112,242 over the same period in 2020.

Kendall Luallen, system information director, said ridership is trending up. He attributed the decline through July this year compared to the same period last year to stronger ridership in the first two months of 2020 before the pandemic. ORT officials expect a ridership boost this fall with regard to charter services provided for University of Arkansas football games and cycling events in Fayetteville. The first Razorback home game of the season is set for Sept. 4.