PATS provides rides to work, doctor

Published 3:00 am Friday, September 7, 2018

Robert Smith wakes up early every morning, gets dressed and waits for his ride to work – not a family member, friend or coworker – he waits for a Pike Area Transit System bus.

“I don’t know how I’d get to work without the bus,” Smith said Thursday while waiting for another bus to bring him back home after a long day of work at Southern Classic Foods in Brundidge. “I don’t like bothering people to use their vehicles because then you are on their time, and if you’re two hours late to work, that’s money you lost.”

Smith is two of about 100 to 150 riders picked up every day by the rural transit system in Pike County according to Dante Frazier, PATS director. Frazier said the busses service about that range of trips every day, including people like Smith who ride twice a day.

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“I would say 85 percent of those we pick up in the mornings and evenings,” Frazier said.

Between those busy times, Frazier said the busses are often used to transport people to doctor’s visits.

Steven Williams has been riding with PATS for the past two years every Tuesday and Thursday like clockwork to get to his dialysis appointments at Fresenius Kidney Care in Troy.

“It’s just convenient for me,” Williams said. “I get them to drop me off and I arrange a ride home. Sometimes I have to remind them to come get me though.”

Joe Busk, another worker at Southern Classic Foods said he just began riding with PATS to and from work Wednesday and regrets not making the decision sooner.

“I wish I knew about it before,” Busk said. “I had seen the busses around here, but I didn’t know how it worked.”

Frazier said the busses transport a large number of employees to work at Southern Classic Foods, around eight each day, which he said is probably the largest group going to one place of employment.

Another one of those workers, Christopher Godwin, said he first heard of the program because his mother had used it when her car broke down, and still relies on the system from time to time.

Frazier said it is the need in the community for transportation that drove him to get involved in the first place.

“This is something that I’ve had a passion for since day one,” Frazier said. “First and foremost, it’s a service that is allowed by the federal government and ALDOT to help people in our area and our county. If we’re helping people back and forth to their jobs at a feasible price and manner so that they don’t have to worry about car maintenance or gas to get there, that’s just a plus to have a system like that in our county. But we do require money to get these people from place to place.”

And since the program began in 2007, the budget has grown exponentially, something that is causing concern among Pike County commissioners as they try to allocate funding in a budget that has grown at a much slower pace.

Chad Copeland, District 4 commissioner, said the commission is not trying to eliminate the program, but is trying to gather more information to determine how to move forward in support of the transit system.

“A lot of counties around us don’t have ways to take people to the doctor,” Copeland said. “We definitely don’t want to take that away; that’s why we have come up with ways to stay in it the last couple of years.”