Is PATS meeting everyone’s expectations?

Published 10:32 pm Friday, May 27, 2011

Pike County Commissioners have questions about the Pike Area Transit System (PATS) program.

Commissioner Oren Fannin said when the PATS program was created organizers said the program would be self-sufficient within three years – but that was four years ago.

“A promise was made that if the county would help the PATS program get off the ground, if the county would support it through this grant system, then in three years the program would be self-sufficient,” Fannin said. “Self-sufficient means they’re paying their own bills, but we’re still paying them at a rate of about $60 to $65,000 a year.”

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Fannin said there are questions that need to be answered.

When Annette Robinson-Benson, who frequents the transit system, articulated issues she had with the service, it became apparent to the commissioners something is wrong somewhere.

“Mrs. Robinson-Benson made some real good points” at the commission meeting on Monday, Fannin said. “It’s a good service, it’s needed by a lot of people, but it’s not doing very well.”

Fannin said he and the other commissioners are wondering why the transit system isn’t being run efficiently.

“That may be one of the reasons it’s not self-sufficient, because it’s not being run properly,” Fannin said. “We’ve just got some questions that need to be answered. In other words, show us why you still need our help and show us what you’re going to do to really serve the people.”

Fannin said the other commissioners have asked questions before, regarding the efficiency of the transit system, but haven’t been able to get any answers.

The system is provides on-request transportation at low cost to residents in Pike County. It is funded though a grant and matching funds from the Pike County Commission, the City of Troy and the City of the program for the upcoming year, approximately $66,900. The county is supposed to fund $69,960 and Brundidge, $11,750. In addition, the city agreed to transfer a van owned by the senior program to the PATS program to provide additional transportation.

Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said the PATS program is sufficient for the area, referring to what Robinson-Benson had mentioned about wanting to see a transit system run like what she had been used to when she lived in Cleveland, Ohio.

“There is not enough traffic in the area to warrant buses running regular routes. We don’t have that kind of system at all. Our system is called a demand-response system and is the only system we can justify funding for,” Lunsford said. “You call in advance and schedule a ride, then they organize the different pick-ups to try to maximize the efficiency of the system.”

Lunsford said he hasn’t heard very many complaints about the transit system and isn’t aware of any “major problems” with the service.

Lunsford said when the PATS program first started, as with any new program, he expected there to be a few “kinks” that would need to be worked out.

The issue Fannin and the other commissioners have with the program is trying to figure out why there are still “kinks,” if the program began with the promise of self-sufficiency.

“There was a pro forma done by the Department of Transportation, which stated they would like to see enough contracts, etc., to where it would help subsidize it out,” Lunsford said. “To say that it would ever be self-sufficient, I don’t think that’s a possibility.”

Lunsford said he never thought of the program as being something that, at the end of any certain period of time, would completely pay for itself.

Lunsford said if there are any issues with the transit program’s efficiency, then he would take the necessary steps to remedy the perceived problems and thinks getting together to solve some of the issues would be “a great idea.”

“I’m glad there’s an interest in it,” Lunsford said. “We would welcome the input to try and make it a better system.”