ECATS unveils new bus
By By James Crawford
The Escambia County Area Transportation Service unveiled a new 15-passenger bus on Friday that will service the public in the local Atmore area and nearby surrounding communities. The bus, painted to look like a trolley, is available to all citizens from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, at a rate of $2 for three stops per trip, or weekly work passes that will take you to and from work for a flat rate of $15. The service also conducts routine work routes, hospital routes and elderly routes that anyone can participate in.
"We are a community transportation service; here to serve everyone," County Transportation Director Faye Jernigan said. "Eventually, the buses will all be decorated like trolleys to let people know the buses are for everyone."
The transportation department employs two drivers in the immediate Atmore area and runs three routes from Atmore to Bay Minette daily.
The department also oversees local bus routes in Brewton and averages 150 stops per day during the week. According to Jernigan, if the public's use of the buses increases, those same numbers could be obtained in Atmore.
"It's good for everyone. If you wake up one morning and your car doesn't crank, give us a call and we'll come get you," Jernigan said. "We have wonderful drivers that make this all work. We're a small program but with the type of employees we have, we've managed to stretch the program out to different areas of the county."
The county commission provides support for the program but the service is funded through federal grants that have to be matched dollar for dollar both from revenue generated from fees and from local community donations.
Commissioner Wiley Tait of District five thinks the program is an overlooked asset and wants the public to take advantage of the transportation service. "I think it's an excellent program and I would like to commend the staff. Everyone here will get out and drive a bus if need be. I'd like the public to patronize them more," Tait said.
"We started out with the commissions backing and we've stayed where we are because of their support and they don't always get the credit they deserve," Jernigan said.
On Dec. 19, the Escambia County Public Transportation department will conduct a Christmas Lights tour departing at 5:30 p.m. from Atmore City Hall. The tour will run a route through downtown and through several neighborhoods with Christmas Light displays. The service is free to the public, however seating is limited.
To schedule pickups, call the transportation department at 1-800-362-7674 during regular business hours. A 24-hour notice is requested. For emergencies or last minute pickups, the department maintains a cell phone that can be reached during extended hours at 294-2631.