Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 25, 2013

Public transportation

BAT expansion good news for Mercer

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— The Bluefield Area Transit is expanding again. The BAT system will begin providing regularly scheduled routes Monday to the Montcalm, Lashmeet and Matoaka communities. This is excellent news for families living in these rural areas who haven’t had access to public transportation in years.

The last public transit system that served the three communities was the old Consolidated Bus Lines, which ran from Matoaka to Wyoming County years ago, according to Patrick McKinney, general manager of the BAT system. Many in the Montcalm, Lashmeet and Matoaka communities have requested public transit assistance in recent years.

As part of the new transit schedule, on Monday and Thursday of each week Montcalm area riders will now be served with three runs a day going to Bluefield and Princeton with connections to all of the existing BAT bus routes, including U.S. Route 52 and Athens.

Then on Tuesday and Friday of each week, the Lashmeet and Matoaka areas will have three runs with connections to Bluefield, Princeton, Route 52 and Athens.

“We’re going to use one of our extra guys on this route,” McKinney said. “Once this is operational, we’ll be serving the biggest part of Mercer County.”

The additional transit routes are being funded through a New Freedom Grant that will expire on June 30, 2014. If the new routes prove to be successful, McKinney said officials will seek to continue the service with help from local contributions and other grant funding.

For this reason, we encourage families in the Montcalm, Matoaka and Lashmeet communities to fully utilize this new service. If ridership levels are impressive, the service will most likely be continued through other funding sources.

Many people use the transit system to go shopping, visit the doctor and attend social functions. For others, the transit system allows them to get out of the house and visit others.

The BAT system is a true blessing for many in our region. In fact, 65 percent of the riders who currently utilize the system are elderly, and the BAT system has the largest percentage of wheelchair-bound and handicapped riders than any other public transit system in the state. But in continued tough economic times, a growing number of younger riders also are utilizing the BAT system.

Bluefield Area Transit is a first-class system, and a true asset to those residents who lack reliable transportation as well as those who may be experiencing financial strain.

 We believe the new routes will be an asset to families in the Montcalm, Matoaka and Lashmeet communities. And we urge citizens in the three communities to take advantage of this new service. The more people who utilize the bus system, the greater the chances of a continuation of service after the original grant funds expire next summer.