LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - After 15 years of service, Lawton Area Transit System or LATS is looking to give back to the employees and community who made reaching this anniversary possible.
Monday, LATS kicked off their 15th anniversary week with "Recognition Monday", where they honored two bus drivers, a mechanic and the maintenance director, who have all been with LATS since it started in 2002. They also recognized Lawton Mayor Fred Fitch and former Assistant City Planner Deborah Jones for their role in getting LATS up and running.
They are also giving away prizes Tuesday through Thursday, offering free pizza on Friday and free rides on Saturday. LATS General Manager Ryan Landers said the company just wanted to give back to the Lawton community to say thank you for its support over the years.
Deborah Jones serves as a liaison officer to the city transit trust and is one of the key people behind LATS getting started. She said she initially hoped LATS would be a success and after seeing the impact it's had over the last 15 years in the community, she's thrilled.
"There are always people who do not have a car to get to work. They ride with us every day," Jones said. "There are people who need to go to dialysis four times a week."
Jones said LATS has grown substantially from about 12,000 riders their first month to an average of more than 30,000 per month now. She hopes those numbers continue to rise and that LATS can become even better because of it.
"You stay optimistic that you continually can fund it, that you can replace equipment, that you can find good employees and continue to provide that service," Jones said. "I'm not he saying that isn't an uphill effort, many times financially it is, but we've been very blessed."
Landers said Lawton has had great support, which is why they decided to hold this week-long anniversary celebration, to not only honor LATS and the employees who been there since the beginning, but more importantly, its riders who use it every day.
"This is kind of a group effort we have to give back to the community every now and then and I think this is just kind of a small step that we can actually do. We are moving in a great direction," Landers said.
That direction, Landers said, will further benefit the 300,000 to 400,000 people they transport each year. Landers said that number will only continue to rise in the future.
"We're going to build a transfer center, a hub, we're redesigning the system, so we're going to get more amenities to the customers as well," Landers said. "There's a lot of good things that are going to be happening with LATS."
Landers said we can also expect three new LATS buses in June. Jones said she thinks our need for public transportation in Lawton will not only continue to grow but will improve. She thinks in the future we'll be seeing a lot more stops with much shorter commute times for those riding.