By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Officials in Welch are hoping to curb the stop-and-go traffic caused by Bluefield Area Transit bus routes.
City leaders and representatives of Bluefield Area Transit (BAT) are working to establish more permanent bus stops in the city to prevent traffic congestion, Welch Mayor Reba Honaker said.
Honaker said the Welch Police Department will meet with Bluefield Area Transit officials to discuss creating designated stops for BAT buses traveling in the city.
“We need designated places to pick people up in the city rather than people flagging the bus down, the bus stopping and then going five feet before it’s flagged down by someone else,” Honaker said. “We want to set up these stops so the buses aren’t randomly stopping and going. It is something that can be pretty easily done. We are worried about public safety for both people on and off the buses.”
Honaker said the city already has a few designated bus shelters.
“We have at least one designated bus stop near the courthouse with a covered roof and benches so people can sit and stay out of the weather,” she said. “We just want to make things safer.”
Honaker said the BAT system is very popular with Welch residents.
“It’s a very beneficial service and very well utilized here,” she said. “All of the county uses the bus service. It’s great for us.”
Patrick McKinney, manager of Bluefield Area Transit, said there are a few designated stops already set up in the city of Welch.
“There is one designated stop at the fire station in Welch and some in back lots there,” McKinney said. “They do have some designated stops. There are also shelters in these locations for people to use while waiting for the bus.”
McKinney said BAT buses pick up riders who sit at designated stops and who flag down the buses.
“It was designed as a flag-stop system, which means people flag down the bus from where they are,” he said. “However, we do have designated places where the buses do stop. Most of these stops are places the bus would have to stop frequently anyway.”
According to McKinney, traffic congestion is one of the issues the city of Welch is facing.
“Sometimes, buses will stop and then go 25 feet and stop again,” McKinney said. “When these buses go a little bit and then stop, it can cause congestion. We are willing to work with the folks in Welch in anyway we can. The police have areas in mind for us to focus on. There have been some problems we will have to overcome. We just want to iron out some of those issues. We have no intention of removing any of our routes from Welch or McDowell County.”
McKinney said the BAT bus routes in McDowell County are some of the best traveled.
“U.S. Route 52 is really one of our best routes if not our best route,” he said. “A lot of people come in and out of McDowell County that way. It is very popular. McDowell County is one of our most traveled areas. We have one bus that goes between Welch and Bluefield and then we have two bus routes that travel the county. One goes from Welch to Gary and to the Walmart in Kimball while the other goes out to areas like Premier and brings people in to Welch to shop and do things like that. We are now covering much more areas than just Bluefield. We have really expanded.”ꆱ