It seems to me that one of the obvious questions that pops up when looking at our county’s public transit system, CATS (Coordinated Agency Transportation System), is how to use the system - that is, how, where, and when can a passenger catch one of the buses.
Last time I explained how CATS has routes that circulate in the towns of Beavercreek, Fairborn, and Xenia; how other routes provide connection between circulating routes; and how connector routes also serve areas that do not have the circulating routes. I also related how these routes have “time points,” that is, the buses are scheduled to be at particular locations at specified times. But what about boarding a bus at someplace other than a time point?
Here’s what CATS has set up. “Along with the time points, boarding buses is permitted anywhere along [a] route where speed limits are 35 miles per hour or less and the bus can safely pull out of traffic. To flag a bus, simply wave at the driver and the bus will pull over and allow you to board.” I didn’t know this service is available, but I now know it works because I saw a guy flag down a bus I was riding. A bit different from the big city bus routes, huh? OK, what else?
The CATS routes are “flex routes” which means route deviations up to 3/4 of a mile from the mapped route are available. Yep, CATS can “flex” to pick up a passenger who is physically unable to reach a time point or a place along the route to flag down a bus. But - and keep this in mind - a request for deviation must be made two business days ahead of time. In other words, you gotta plan ahead, but this is a unique service for any public transit system I’ve heard of - and the fare is the same - no extra charge. I sure didn’t know that.
But, as the TV commercials say, “Wait! there’s more!” CATS also offers what they call a seven days a week “ Demand Responsive Service” for travel anywhere within Greene County with limited service to Montgomery County. The cost? $3 ( 75 cents for children 13 and under) per passenger each way within Greene County and $6 per passenger each way for trips into Montgomery County (75 cents for children 13 and under.)
Of course, this service must be arranged in advance with the CATS scheduling office, but $3 anywhere in our county for adults and 75 cents for the kids? How about them apples!
And while on the subject of fares, CATS has introduced monthly bus passes. These passes, which may be purchased only at the CATS office in Xenia at the Greene County Complex, are “ … non-transferrable, non-refundable, and include the name of the rider.” The cost is $40 for adults (ages 14 and up) and $20 for children 13 and under, the elderly, and the disabled.
CATS also offers bus tokens for $1.50 regular fare and $0.75 for the reduced fare folks - a convenience for those who might not want to cart around the exact change for the fare box.
How about a few more facts, figures, and features. CATS has 36 buses which are maintained and operated under contract with the First Transit company which also furnishes the 60 drivers necessary for the approximately 15,000 trips a month. The buses are equipped with bike racks and can accommodate three wheelchairs using lifts.
I was surprised to learn the buses are also seat belt equipped - and get this - I saw an installed infant seat just waiting for precious cargo. I commented to a driver that some people might have difficulty in mounting the steps into the bus, but he kinda grinned and told me, “Oh, I can just lower the lift in the back and it takes them right up into the bus.”
Surprise! Surprise! This little exercise started when I was asked for my opinion about our county public transit system and I pled ignorance — a situation I found widespread. Well, I now have formed an opinion. We have a largely undiscovered public transit system providing surprising good and inexpensive service for our county’s folks. Greene CATS not only has fixed circulating and connecting routes but also has unusual features such as the “flex routes” and “on demand” services that I didn’t dream of.
Well, folks, the ball is now in your court. To learn more and get specifics about the routes, scheduling and other stuff, Greene CATS Public Transit is the website, the telephone numbers are 937-562-6466 and 877-227-2287 (toll-free) and the office is at the Greene County Complex in Xenia at 571 Ledbetter Road — a stop on the Green line. And if you contact them I betcha you’ll find out some more things that will make you say, “I didn’t know that.” At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at email@example.com.