For the past 15 years, a local resident who was without transportation but had $1 in his pocket could make a quick call to KI BOIS Area Transit System to arrange a ride to any destination in Tahlequah.
But to help defray ever-increasing costs, KATS had to raise its rates to $2, effective June 2. By most accounts, it’s still a bargain.
“We started offering services in Tahlequah in 1999, and at that time, we had three or four vehicles,” said Charla Sloan, KATS transit director. “Today, we have nearly two dozen vehicles operating in Tahlequah, and we had never increased our rates.”
KATS is a nonprofit agency and receives a portion of its funding from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Cherokee Nation. While that money helps, it does not fully fund the agency, which is why riders are charged a minimal fee.
“In the past, we have charged $1 for one trip anywhere within Tahlequah,” said Sloan. “We pick up the clients, take them to their destination and return them to their home.”
Sloan said a number of factors went into the decision to increase the fee.
“The cost of everything has increased – including employee pay rates, health insurance, vehicle insurance, not to mention fuel costs,” said Sloan. “We’re just trying to cover a portion of those costs. The state budget is not keeping up with the increase in demand for services.”
KATS provides curb-to-curb – or, based on special needs, door-to-door demand response transportation – and vehicles are designed to accommodate clients with disabilities.
Sloan said it’s not uncommon for KATS to receive up to 500 calls per day in its service area, which includes Cherokee, Adair, Haskell, Hughes, Latimer, LeFlore, McIntosh, Okmulgee, Okfuskee, Pittsburgh, Sequoyah and Wagoner counties.
She offered a few tips to help better serve their clients.
“For people who are just wanting to run errands, it’s best to call between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.,” said Sloan. “Early mornings and late afternoons are spent doing medical and employment runs. It’s also important that people know that the first of the month is very busy, so there may be a longer wait time.”
Sloan also recommends planning a day’s worth of errands for one trip.
“Doing it that way allows our drivers to provide timely service for more clients,” said Sloan.
According to Sloan, many other transportation companies require scheduling an appointment a day in advance, but they do not.
“They can call the day before, which is helpful, but it is not required,” said Sloan.
Sloan said in addition to offering people transportation for errands and appointments, they partner with the Cherokee Nation for scheduled employment routes.
“Cherokee Nation has several scheduled routes that run from Tahlequah to Muskogee or Claremore or Catoosa,” said Sloan. “A lot of people are able to have jobs because Cherokee Nation helps fund those routes. We also have a route that runs from Stilwell or Sallisaw to Tahlequah that brings people into Tahlequah to work.”
The decision to raise the rate was not made lightly.
“We’ve been doing transportation for so long, and we appreciate everyone in the city for their support,” said Sloan. “We hate having to raise the price, and it was a decision that took us a long time to make. We truly hope it doesn’t create a burden, but without funding, we wouldn’t be able to provide services.”
To find out more about KI BOIS Area Transit System visit www.kibois.org.