Dawson says transit changes have created ‘gap’ in service

Pulaski Area Transit returned on Sept. 4 to its original fixed route service. It’s the opinion of at least one member of Pulaski Town Council the change has created some unintended problems.

“I feel like the conversation about transportation issues in town should not be over with,” said Councilman Brooks Dawson during Council’s Tuesday work session.

Dawson thinks PAT made some needed changes in its operation, but may have gone too far.

“To me we were way over in left field and had to make a change,” Dawson said. “It made sense to everybody, but we went way over here to the right. They (PAT) have made some changes and adjustments, but we’re not all the way to the service level we need to be for town citizens.”

Dawson’s complaint is that the change made by PAT has left some residents without a ride.

“There’s a gap in our community right now that was left behind by the change, and we need to focus on figuring out a solution,” Dawson said.

Dawson told his fellow council members that it “really doesn’t make a lot of sense that we have buses running around that we’re helping fund that are riding around empty.”

“We need to push and ask for better service for ourselves and our citizens,” Dawson said. “Whatever we can do to help them I’m all about that conversation. But I think there’s a gap.”

Dawson said he’d talked to one family who moved a family member to another community that provided a service that worked.

“There’s a sector of the population that doesn’t have or doesn’t want to have their own vehicle. Do we want to be a community that’s not optimal for them to live in because of these gaps,” Dawson asked.

“We don’t have any type of paid service really for them. If we had cabs it wouldn’t be that much of an issue and because  we don’t, we just have a gap in our community,” he continued.

Town Manager Shawn Utt said he expected issues when PAT changed back to a fixed route. “Because in essence we were subsidizing a taxi service,” he said.

Dawson said he’d been told by people that there are times when it’s easier to “jump on a bus to Dublin than it is to use it to shop in town.”

That costs the town tax revenue as well, Dawson said.

Councilman Joseph Goodman noted that one reason cab companies disappeared in town was due to how PAT operated, and suggested the town reach out to some area cab companies about coming into Pulaski.

Councilman Lane Penn noted he had talked to the owner of the last cab company to operate in Pulaski and, “he wants nothing to do with it,” Penn said.

He noted one reason the former cab company owner won’t come back to Pulaski was the vehicle inspections.

“His cars had to pass state inspections then an inspection by the police department,” Penn said.

Deputy Town Manager Nichole Hair said anything council members are hearing about PAT, she would forward to transit management – Monica Musick and Candice Draper.

Hair noted that the way PAT had been operating previously, “they were fortunate they didn’t lose their federal funding.”

Dawson said there had been an 8,000 drop in ridership.

“Those people were going to places in town. So where are they going now? That should be a major concern,” Dawson said.

“If 70 percent of citizens who were using it (transit) have made a conscious decision to quit using it, then we’ve got a problem,” he added.

Penn said another problem for the transit is the handicapped rules.

“People aren’t handicapped, but they don’t drive and are too old to walk to the bus stops,” he said.

Utt noted that the handicapped rules are “a misnomer.”

“People aren’t handicapped, but it’s an immobility issue,” Utt said. “If they’re elderly and can’t walk, they qualify (for transit pickup). There is a whole litany of ways to qualify and it’s a matter of educating folks.”

On Feb. 1, the transit expanded its list of stops to include four new stops in downtown Pulaski and a fifth on Randolph Avenue near the town limits.

Those additional stops were added to 32 that already exist on two fixed routes in the town. The two fixed routes – Route A and Route B – merge at two spots in town every 30 minutes – at Dollar General in the Maple Shade Shopping Plaza and the other at Walgreens on Memorial Drive – where riders can switch from one route to the other.

Plus, a fixed route from Pulaski to Walmart runs four times a day.

By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot