Lawton_The sagging economy could be giving the Lawton Area Transit System (LATS) buses a boost in ridership. LATS Operations Director Pauline Garrett says folks are looking to ride buses to save cash for more important things. LATS currently is averaging about 31,000 riders per month - up from last year by about 1,000 riders. With fluctuating gas prices, Garrett says her drivers won't be getting a break any time soon.
Hundreds of people per day come and go from bus stops in Lawton. Frank Petite is a regular LATS bus rider, and says the public transportation helps him get his chores finished - without shelling out extra cash for gas. He says he lives a distance from where he needs to pay his bills. "It's way out there on 63rd." Petite says he uses the bus for a variety of reasons. "I might have to go to Wal-Mart - I might need some groceries or something," he said.
Garret says some like to take advantage of the LATS system for convenience, while others use it out of necessity. "Some have no vehicle at all," she said. She says some folks simply cannot afford to drive a car anymore. "They're having to make some decisions, and the bus will be their transportation for now - a lot of them are job-hunting." Garret says the LATS drivers never have to hunt for passengers. "They pull into the downtown transfer center, and they're right back out sometimes - they don't have time for breaks," she said.
Petite says he loves the fact that he doesn't have to fill up his tank just to go pay his rent. "A cab would cost me an arm and a leg to go to them places like that," he said. Garrett says LATS' busiest areas is the 'red route' which is the central corridor of Lawton covering Cameron University, south Lawton, and Wal-Mart on Sheridan Road.