Major changes will soon be made to the largest provider of public transportation in Northwest Missouri.
Since 1971, OATS has provided transportation to northwest Missouri residents, asking only for suggested donations in return. When the new fiscal year begins on July 1, OATS will implement a new fare structure for all riders.
Fares will vary depending on the length and location of each trip. One-way, in-town travel will cost $1 per ride. Out of the more than 245,000 trips OATS provided in the 2011-12 fiscal year, 156,462 of them were classified as in-town. Trips within the same county, but from rural parts of that county, will cost the rider $3 one-way. Trips to and from adjacent counties will cost the rider $4 one-way. Every Tuesday, OATS offers an express bus that travels from Trenton, Mo., to the Kansas City metropolitan area. This express bus will cost the rider $5 one-way.
"Switching to a fare-based system is necessary, allowing us to stretch our state and federal dollars further," said Beth Langley, OATS Northwest Regional Director.
Langley said rider contributions currently make up just 4 percent of all OATS revenue. In the past few years, OATS has seen significant cuts in state and federal funding as well as cuts to contract-based service. She said the fare structure is necessary to avoid any additional route cuts and/or service delays in the Northwest Region.
From July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, OATS provided 245,619 trips to 5,415 riders in the northwest region. The largest portion of these trips were job-related, at 64,014 trips for employment and 30,409 for business. Other uses for the OATS transportation system included essential shopping, nutrition, medical, education and en route stops. During fiscal year 2011-12, OATS traveled a total of 2,132,173 miles in the northwest region.
Langley said users of the OATS transportation system have been financially supportive of the program since its inception in 1971. Long before the idea of a fare was introduced, residents in the northwest region organized a number of different fundraisers to gain money toward new vehicles.
"Bake sales, garages sales, quilt and afghan raffles, chili suppers; You name it, they've probably attempted it at some time to raise money for new vehicles. They're a great group of go-getters. They're very generous, and every little bit we get we put back into the community."