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North Arkansas Transit Service upgrades city routes in Harrison

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 5:05 PM CST
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - North Arkansas Transit Service (NATS) in Harrison recently implemented an experimental plan for route improvements.

The new routes mimic “micro-transit,” which focuses on flexible routes and schedules. It is similar to what is seen with driver-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. City routes had several stops throughout town that were on a schedule, which meant longer ride times for riders. With a limited number of customers and issues with fuel consumption, NATS is testing out the new route system.

The new version allows people to call NATS at 416-1080 and tell the bus driver where they are. The driver then goes to that location, picks the person up, and takes them directly to where they need to go. The buses don’t go to someone’s house, but instead, they can go to old city routes or specific, public locations in town.

Donavon Cavender, a Harrison resident who is highly involved in the Lions Club, is a frequent user of the transit system due to visual impairment. Cavender says living independently with his condition can make it hard to get where you need to go.

”One thing that is important to me is being out and being involved in the community,” said Cavender. ”This transportation has helped me so much because without it I had a harder time getting around.“

NATS is a non-profit organization federally funded by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. Located across 9 counties in northern Arkansas, it offers a one-way curb to curb service for $1.

”It’s just vital, for some folks it’s almost life or death,” said NATS director Jack Chisum. “You would be surprised by how many people don’t have a car or their car is broken down, and with parts shortage and the current supply chain, it’s vital.”

Chisum, who has been with NATS for three years, says he is continually working to improve the transit service to meet the public need.

”We call it micro-transit, at least that’s what they do in the big cities,” he explained. “Before we used to run a bus around routes in town. Now they just call at 416-1080. We pick them up and take them directly to their location. It’s curb to curb service so it’s not like the city route like you’re actually pulling up to a bench or the front door of a clinic. So it’s a pretty important service.”

Offering quicker rides for not only those who could use one but also those who need it.

“It makes it a lot easier for me to be involved in the community,” said Cavender.

The new route improvements are in the experimental phase. So far NATS has seen a 35% decrease in fuel consumption and slower average ride times, making it hopeful the changes will become permanent.

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