The KiBois Area Transit System (KATS), which serves Sequoyah County and 11 other eastern Oklahoma counties, will be getting a $1,424,962 grant to replace 33 vehicles in its 230-vehicle fleet.
Charla Sloan, KATS director, said Tuesday, “I’m so excited. It’s like Christmas around here.”
Two federal grants are coming to Oklahoma to make public transit services safer, more accessible and more efficient. On Sept. 8, the Federal Transit Administration announced the recipients of funding through the competitive Bus and Bus Facilities Grant Program, which included grants awarded to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) for rural transit and transit service in Oklahoma City.
The nearly $3.6 million grant to ODOT will help 10 rural transit providers modernize their fleets with more accessible and reliable vehicles.
Sloan said many of the 230 KATS buses have over 200,000 miles, and in past years the service has only been able to replace about three per year, with the assistance of the Oklahoma Department of Human Service and the Cherokee Nation.
“This is big,” Sloan said about the grant money. “Every little bit helps.”
KATS also receives a $35,000 in matching funds annually from the City of Sallisaw and assistance from the Cherokee Nation. KATS has a variety of buses for various services, from mini-vans which are ADA accessible for three to four people to buses with wheelchair lifts for up to 14 people.
And the service has grown over the years.
Sloan said Sallisaw has the third highest KATS usage, with 6,019 passenger trips in August alone. And 1,017 of those were Sooner Rides to medical appointments. Many of those rides are for lifesaving dialysis treatments.
Only Okmulgee, with 9,021 passenger trips, and Tahlequah, with about 8,000, had higher usage in August. KATS buses provided a total of 56,608 passenger trips in August.
Sloan said KATS buses traveled 453,271 miles in August, and average 5.5 million miles per year.
Sloan said the KATS service is the largest public transport in the state, and in several neighboring states.
“We try to keep a good fleet,” Sloan said. “This grant will really be a help, but we still have quite a few vehicles that need to be replaced. The City of Sallisaw has always been very, very supportive by providing $35,000 in matching money (annually).”
Sloan said, “The only thing is it takes so long to get the new vehicles. Hopefully we’ll have them within six months.”
In addition to Sequoyah County, KATS is located in Adair, Cherokee, Haskell, Hughes, McIntosh, LeFlore, Latimer, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Pittsburg and Wagoner counties.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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