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New Bus Route Approved For Lawton's Industrial Area

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LAWTON, Okla_After a city-wide survey, the city of Lawton is planning to add a new bus route to the West Lawton industrial park.

It's home to six large businesses, including Goodyear and Bar-S Foods. Right now, the closest stop for a LATS bus is about two miles away.

The city has considered several alternatives, and last Monday voted to go ahead with a new route, specifically for the area. 

This is a little different than your traditional bus route. It's called a flexible fixed route. It will run from the LATS headquarters to the industrial park. There will be 11 planned stops, but will make additional stops based off of customer demand.

"The green line down the middle is the route. The dark blue is the area, that if you live in the area you're gonna have to walk to that route, the light blue is if you live in that area the bus will veer off a little bit to try to get you some additional service, " said city of Lawton Community Services Director, Richard Rogalski as he explained the new route.

When the LATS routes were first designed, they didn't reach the industrial center. But, after an outpouring of interest in a new route, the city conducted a survey and found some convincing stats.

"Interestingly enough we had 170 respondents that said that they would be interested in taking transit even if it took twice as long, and two thirds said they would pay more than a dollar a trip, " said Rogalski.

Officials say once the plan is off and rolling LATS buses have the potential to move 2000 people out to the industrial park. The only hang-up? Funding.

"In 2012 dollars it would cost about eighty thousand dollars a year to operate this system. That money obviously has to come from somewhere, " Rogalski said.

Rogalski said the city is looking into grant money to fund at least half of the project.

Benefits from the new route include less stress on the roadways, less pollution from cars and an increase in tax dollars to the community. But most importantly, it will help many who need a way to work that might not have one otherwise.

"There are a number of families that have only one car, " Rogalski said.  "And right now maybe one person is taking it or they have to work and drive back and that becomes quite difficult, especially if you both have to be at work at the same time."

Rogalski said if funding did come together soon, we could be looking at the plan taking off in the next year, but for now he hopes the interest in the project will help get it off the ground.

"This is an important step for us. But like every you know thing we just have to make sure we, we have to find our priorities and find our funding, " said Rogalski.

Another option for funding is supplementing the cost with a higher priced ticket, but Rogalski said relying solely on the ticket price to rake in enough money, especially in the beginning stages, is a gamble. Ideally, they'd like to find a pilot company to back the new route, even if it's only for the first year.

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