SOUTH BEND -- Some city residents who spoke out at a public meeting Wednesday about possible new transit between Eddy Street Commons, downtown and Ignition Park touted economic benefits, but others raised concerns that the project would benefit only a select few who live and work in that area while neglecting other areas, particularly low-income neighborhoods.
Transpo has hired a consulting firm to conduct a study that would analyze costs, benefits and other aspects of an urban circulator system, or high-frequency transit that connects walkable, high density areas with a streetcar, rapid transit bus or trolley.
Attractions the potential route could connect are Notre Dame, Eddy Street Commons, Innovation and Ignition parks, Ivy Tech Community College and downtown.
Transpo officials asked for public feedback on the project that is just beginning, and they heard questions about whether the project is beneficial to the city on the whole and whether it would attract enough riders to balance the cost.
"I'm a little concerned about transit for everyone, not just the people that's working downtown," Tishie Horton, who lives on the west side of the city, said. "This ain't about looking cute. It's about the people that's been here, and them getting around."
Horton said she thinks the money could be better spent improving bus services on the south and west sides of the city, which she said contain a lot of residents who don't own cars.
James Lee, a resident of the Rum Village area, said he recently turned down two jobs because of gaps in the bus service in certain parts of the city.
"You have to serve the whole community, not just part," Lee said.
Other city residents at the meeting said the bus routes that run on and near Western Avenue, a main thoroughfare, could be improved.
To concerns about the project only serving a small segment of the city, officials said they would examine how other routes would intersect with this corridor.
Several people referenced route cuts Transpo made last year because of a decrease in funding. They asked how they have the money for this project.
John Leszczynski, board chairman for the South Bend Public Transportation Corp., said the cuts "better aligned services" given the funding, and that ridership has increased 5 to 7 percent since the cuts.
"We've got to think of better ways to do things, different ways to do things," Leszczynski said. "This could be a potential revenue source."
Robert Olson, a retired high school teacher who lives in the county, just outside the city, said trolleys and streetcars carry a nostalgia, or sort of mystique that could attract and liven up business downtown.
Others also said the route could spur development in the city's business district, attracting new dwellers and businesses.
"We can try to bring people to the downtown area," Olson said. "Make it alive again."
Officials said the study should be completed later this year.
"This is the first step of ... dreaming a bigger dream of transit in South Bend," said Joe Kern, of SRF Consulting, which is administering the study.
He said public input will remain crucial as the study develops in the coming months.
Staff writer Madeline Buckley: