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CATS to prowl distant streets

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Since the public bus system was abandoned in the early 1970s in favor of omnipresent personal vehicles, Yellow Springs has not had a regular public transportation system connecting it to towns and cities in the region. But starting this week, the Greene County Transit Board, known as Greene CATS, and several regional partners launched a one-day-a-week bus route that provides affordable transportation for residents from Xenia, Fairborn, Yellow Springs and Springfield. Utilizing the Tuesdays-only service, local residents can now use public transportation to get to nearby towns that, especially for those with compromised mobility, used to be difficult to access.

The service, known as Flex-Service Route 49, is a result of a partnership between human service agencies that wanted to provide especially the elderly and disabled populations better access to medical providers in nearby towns, according to CATS mobility manager Emily Demeter this week. A survey of agencies in the region, which includes Greene, Montgomery, Miami, Preble and northern Warren Counties, found that residents in Cedarville and Yellow Springs in particular needed better access to public transit to get to medical practitioners in the Springfield area. And with a Federal Transit Administration grant to cover half of the $14,000 annual cost for a new route, Springfield’s Community Mercy Foundation donated the balance to get the program on its feet, Demeter said.

CATS will administer the program by adding a Tuesday route to its flex schedule. A CATS bus from Xenia will make two stops in Cedarville before coming to Yellow Springs for stops at Friends Care Community and Bryan Community Center at 10:30 a.m. From the Bryan Center, passengers can transfer and board a bus from the Petticrew Center for Adult Care (a Mercy partner), which will go to downtown Springfield and then to Springfield Regional Medical Center. On the return route, the bus will make a second stop at the Bryan Center at 2:30 p.m. before continuing back to Xenia.

The transit system is open to the general public and caters to the disabled and the elderly. Rides cost $.50 one-way, with a slight discount for senior citizens. While the new route has its own destinations, the system allows passengers to access both the Springfield City Area Transit system and the two existing CATS routes through downtown Fairborn and Xenia to get to most major urban and shopping centers in the area.

“The main objective initially was to connect people to the hospitals, but we’re also hoping to connect the communities for anything anyone needs,” Demeter said. “People can go to Xenia, Fairborn and Springfield if they need to, too — it opens doors for everybody in many different areas.”

Residents can ride the bus to Xenia and Fairborn by calling the service for pick-up, although that service is only available by calling CATS for  reservations two weeks in advance at 562-6523.

Yellow Springs Senior Center Transportation Coordinator Barbara Mann pushed for Route 49 because she feels there has been a need among the 75 local residents the transportation program serves to get to Springfield and Xenia for medical services. The local transportation service is booked with up to 20 rides per day, and the center occasionally has to turn down people for rides, Mann said. The on-demand pickup service that CATS offers works too, but reservations must be made two weeks in advance, which is difficult for people, and the buses only travel within Greene or Montgomery Counties. Route 49 will finally draw Springfield into the loop, and Mann is eager to try the route herself.

“Anyone can use it for anything — it has the potential of being more than just hospital trips.”

Funding for the new route is for one year, and Demeter hopes to get as many residents as possible to take advantage of it so that CATS could extend the grants for a second year. CATS also expects to add another Xenia route that includes Central State and Wilberforce Universities, the Social Security offices, juvenile courts and other stops, and the agency is also trying for two more routes that connect Xenia to Wright State University and to downtown Dayton.

And especially because Springfield in Clark County is considered outside of the region, Route 49 is a pilot program that pushes boundaries.

“We’re crossing county lines but also regional lines — it’s a big deal to connect to other regions,” she said.

For more information on the CATS service, call Greene CATS at 562-6523.

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