LATS adding Para-Trans bus

The Lawton Area Transit System is upgrading its service by adding a new Para-transit bus.  The Lawton City Council approved the purchase of another vehicle for disabled passengers.  It's a curb to curb service that picks up riders whose disabilities prevent them from riding on regular routes.

Now, even more disabled residents will have independence.  Some who may not have had a way to get around before will be able to make it to their doctors, pharmacies and shopping excursions.  LATS Para-transit rider Leon Pennington is one resident who depends on the city buses.  He's undergoing dialysis and the treatments make him dizzy and tired.  Because of these side effects, he can't drive to his doctor appointments, now he takes the bus to get there.

"I think it's a tremendous idea.  Sometimes I think more people ride the Para-bus than they do the city bus," said Pennington.  The bus takes him directly from his home, to the doctor and back again.  He says adding another Para-transit bus to the LATS fleet is great, but he's already been using it for two years.  "It's outstanding!" he said.

And, he's not the only one who things so.  "Over the most recently completed year, we saw an increase of 42%," said Steve Sherrer, LATS General Manager.  With over 1100 Para-transit passengers monthly, the LATS system decided they needed another vehicle.  The demand was so heavy, they started having to use vans and even regular buses to pick up riders.

"The passenger load for one dedicated vehicle was just too much," said Sherrer.  So, they asked the City Council for another bus and Tuesday night, they got it.  The 12 passenger bus has three areas for wheel chair bound passengers and nine seats for passengers who are able to walk.

LATS Para-transit rider Priscilla Brandon is a rider who is able to walk but is having cataract surgery and can't drive.  "For me, I don't drive.  And I'm no allowed to drive for quite some time, so my daughter got me set up with this and it's been just great," she said.

Alex Martinez has been driving the original bus for three years and he knows how his passengers depend on the service.  "It makes me feel good helping them," he said.  "You know, they need the help. They cannot get out to a bus stop."  And Martinez and LATS are always there for them.

And, thanks to a federal grant, the city only has to pay 17% of the cost of the bus.  The additional route should start in late November and the price for the curb to curb service is just $2.  On top of that hard to beat price, some insurance companies will even pay for it.