Brownsville's Metropolitan Planning Organization will seek public input on transit projects at four town hall meetings during the next month.
The group is weighing its options now that population growth has freed up an extra $3 million to $4 million for transportation projects in the area.
MPO Director Mark Lund explained that U.S. Census data shows the city's population, now more than 200,000, warranted more money for transit projects and a reclassification of the MPO to become a transportation management agency.
As a TMA, the group has a little more capital to use in directing transportation investment, Lund said.
"We now have a little more flexibility about what kind of projects we can do, whereas before the focus was always on highways," he said.
Over the past two decades, most of the group's efforts have gone toward highway widening projects, he said, but emphasis can now be directed to other projects.
"In many instances we've widened them as wide as they can get," he said, adding that funds can now be used for traffic signal improvements, trails and bus system enhancements. "That wasn't an option for spending before."
Lund said implementing a traffic signal system that would coordinate signals in an area would be a huge step forward for the city, as some intersections -- like the Four Corners intersection at Boca Chica Boulevard -- are extremely inefficient.
"We know that that's a problem area," he said. "It's not the only area that we have, though."
Still, the goal of the public forums will be to engage residents about what transit improvements they want to see.
Lund said the four events in Brownsville will be informal, with six to seven tables set up showcasing different aspects of transportation from cycling to buses and safety.
Displays will show the city's long-range plans for transit and attendees will receive pretend money to deposit at the tables to symbolically indicate where they would like to see the MPO's funds invested.
"We want to hear from people what they want to do," Lund said, explaining that attendees won't be expected to stay long. "We just want to reach out to people."
Residents can also make suggestions via mail or email, he said, explaining that the event, described as an open house, is intended only for informational purposes.
To facilitate parents and guardians, there will be seating, crayons and mini-books for children.
"We want people to come out and talk to us and let us know what they have on their minds," Lund said.
Copyright 2013 - The Brownsville Herald, Texas