After facing major financial challenges in 2008, officials say things are looking up for Meridian's public bus service.
At the time, with rising costs and a shrinking budget, Meridian Transit System was operating deep in the red. Now it seems that there could be some light at the end of the tunnel.
MTS executive director Patricia Flowers said she's proud to announce that the agency is now operating in the black.
"To say we were in dire straights? Yes, we were," said Flowers. "Are we now? No. Do we need money? Yes."
Flowers said support is needed especially from the city and county to help the transit authority to continue to provide services.
However, as for the way things are for now, Flowers says much of the agency's saving grace has been a drop in the cost of fuel and and increase in money brought in from advertising.
To help generate funds Flowers said, within the last few months, the system has received thousands of dollars through advertising on the buses and now it hopes to earn even more through advertising on new benches at bus stops throughout the city. The benches were bought and will be maintained by a private company with which the system is partnering.
"Because we will receive money whether there is advertising on the benches or not, and then once advertising is on the benches, we will receive a percentage of that," Flowers said.
Also, to help pay for other upgrades such as needed bus repairs and the purchase of new buses, Flowers says the agency has applied to receive funds from the federal stimulus package.
"We submitted a grant to MDOT for close to $500,000," Flowers said. "By September we should know where we are with the stimulus money. I'm extremely optimistic."