Thanks to grant funding from the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, the Federal Transit Administration and New River Valley Senior Services, Pulaski Area Transit (PAT) is moving the community in seven new vehicles.
The transit service received the seven new buses in April, and those vehicles represent the replacement of approximately 70 percent of PAT’s fleet. According to Gary Heinline, the new buses will offer the same services with some enhancements to riders’ experiences and have a focus on safety and security both inside and outside the vehicles.
“All of them now have six cameras inside the vehicle to monitor pretty much anything and everything that goes on inside the vehicles,” said Heinline. “We had three of our newer ones that also had those on them, but now all of them have that. All of them also have backup cameras so they can see what’s directly behind the vehicle.”
He said the cameras are for safety purposes, so when there is an issue either with a passenger or a driver—say for instance it is reported that a driver ran a stop sign—what is going on inside and outside the bus can be investigated.
Additionally, Heinline pointed out all the buses are wheelchair accessible, which hasn’t really changed. What has changed is the rider capacity on the newer buses.
“These are 12-passenger, plus room for two wheelchairs. The others were 10-passenger, so these are a little bit bigger,” he said. “And all of these do have bicycle racks on them. So this gives us a fleet of 11 vehicles and 10 of them are pretty much identical now, with bicycle racks and all of the things I just mentioned.”
Heinline said he doesn’t believe there will be too big of an aesthetic difference for riders, but the ride may be a little smoother than before.
“The system that we have on these buses gives you a little bit softer ride than maybe what the older ones had, so hopefully they’ll make them a little more comfortable for (riders),” he said. “There’s more cleanliness and stuff like that. I hope they don’t see any change.”
The buses were obtained through grant funding from DRPT and the FTA, with supplemental funding from New River Valley Senior Services rounding out the costs. Heinline said “it would not have been possible to receive this many vehicles at one time if not for the hard work that John Hawley has put in with me to help obtain these from the state. I don’t know of any other system that got this many vehicles at one time.”
He said normally systems get one or two, maybe three vehicles at most, but because PAT’s numbers have been good going into their tenth year and it is evident the system is growing and expanding, DRPT has been very good to Pulaski. He reported annual ridership numbers in 2012 to be over 83,000.
“All total, these vehicles cost $406,000, and cost Pulaski County and the town of Pulaski nothing,” Heinline said.
The service gives much credit for its funding to a system for tracking statistical and demographic information about riders, such as riders’ age groups, how many people with disabilities use the service, and how many are in wheelchairs. Thanks to this information PAT has been able to receive a grant called “New Freedom” for the operation of its Saturday service.
He says anyone can be picked up on Saturdays, but “there is a point that it has to be clear…that it’s being used mostly for those with disabilities. So because we’re able to report those numbers and they have been good, we’ve been able to receive about $90,000 a year for Saturday service.”
Pulaski Area Transit provides citizens with regularly scheduled transportation around the Town of Pulaski and Dublin, including New River Community College. PAT also includes links to Fairlawn. Hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays, and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Fares are $1 for college students and $2 for the general public. The service also runs a Demand Response system through which any resident of the town of Pulaski may call 980-5040 for the curb-to-curb service.