Traveling just became easier for those needing help getting around Tahlequah, as the KI BOIS Area Transit System has partnered with PICK Transportation to bring on-demand trip booking to town.
KATS, along with Pelivan Transit, Jamm (INCA) Transit, and Cimarron Transit, each applied for and received an Innovative Mobility Initiative Grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation for $1.5 million to create a regional public transportation system that will utilize UBER technology. Tahlequah is among the 21 rural communities to be part of the one-year pilot project, during which locals will be able to get on their UBER app and books trips for anywhere within the city limits.
"It's a pilot project, so if this is successful, this something that we will continue to do in Tahlequah," KATS Director Charla Sloan said. "We have a year to get it going and see how it works. If it all works, we'll definitely look at expanding it."
The ride sharing service for Tahlequah officially starts today, June 3, at 5 p.m. Services will be available from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Monday-Friday; and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. KATS will begin with three drivers on the road, but expects to hire an additional chauffeur to make it four. Also, throughout the year-long project, rides will only cost $3.
Tahlequah is busy during the summer, as the lake and river attract guests from all over. The hotels are often booked and on weekends the downtown parking can often fill up quickly. So the new service will allow out-of-town guests to avoid dealing with the hassle of parking and instead get dropped off right in front of a restaurant, bar or anywhere they want to go.
"I think it will help people that maybe have a job and don't get off until eight or nine o'clock at night. That way they can just book a ride and be able to go home," Sloan said. "I think it will be something for the people that go to the casino, and if they still have a little bit of money left in their pocket they can get home. There's just so many different things that we're hoping it could be used for."
COVID-19 has increased the use of apps and smartphone technology, so Sloan thought now was a good time to roll out the new online service. It will be even easier for those who are used to taking rides through UBER, as they won't have to download a separate app.
"You probably already have your credit card on the UBER app if you've used it elsewhere. So it will be pretty simple," Sloan said. "You just book it and it will tell you when your vehicle will be there and what the driver's name is that's going to be there. I'm pretty excited about it."
PICK Transportation will appear as a service or vehicle option with the UBER application. People will be able to rate drivers and vice versa. Riders with smartphones will receive SMS messages with key info on upcoming trips. There will be options for riders with visual, hearing and developmental disabilities, and drivers will receive visual and audible turn-by-turn instruction.
The app will also feature the ability to share ride information with a caregiver or family member to provide an added layer of security for passengers.
The service also provides access to a web portal allowing agencies to book trips on behalf of riders without access to a smartphone or computer.
Aside from Tahlequah, other communities PICK will serve include: Atoka, Bartlesville, Claremore, Cleveland, Eufaula, Grove, Madill, McAlester, Miami, Okmulgee, Owasso, Ponca City, Poteau, Pryor, Sallisaw, Sapulpa, Skiatook, Sulphur, Tishomingo, and Vinita.
To find out more about PICK Transportation, visit www.okpicktransportation.com or call 855-735-4826.