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Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2016

NWTHRA offers residents alternative form of public transportation

Thursday, January 31, 2013

As Rep. Bill Sanderson looks on, a Northwest Tennessee Human Resource Agency driver helps a female passenger board a van at a Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority event in March 2012.
Last month, the only cab service in Dyer County went out of business, effectively terminating what was thought to be the only form of public transportation available in the community. However, there is a little-known option available to residents in the form of a fleet of vehicles offered by the Northwest Tennessee Human Resource Agency Public Transportation Program.

"Tennessee is one of six states that still has a rural transportation program," said Tommy Bradberry, director of the program. "It's simple, easy transportation available to everyone."

Bradberry said that the program was started in 1984 with just eight vehicles that covered nine counties. Today the program has 95 vehicles serving the counties of Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henry, Lake, Obion and Weakley. Transportation is available within your own community for as little as 50 cents one way and to Jackson, Memphis and Nashville on select days for larger fees. According to Bradberry, approximately 80 percent of the individuals they transport are for medical services.

"We make 800 trips a day and cover about 3.5 million miles a year," said Bradberry.

So how does it work?

Individuals using the program are asked to call NWTHRA's Scheduling Office at 1-877-557-4337 48 hours in advance of their trip. The public rider is then asked to call after 2 p.m. the day before their trip and they are given a 30-minute pick-up window. Passengers are expected to be ready to board the van at any time during their 30-minute pick-up window. Once you are dropped off at your destination you can call when you are ready to return or you can coordinate a set time with the driver. Bradberry says that all drivers are equipped with cellular phones so NWTHRA or a passenger can always reach them.

Using NWTHRA's Public Transportation Program is slightly different than riding in a cab and closer to riding in a bus. For starters, you will have to be comfortable riding with other individuals and you may have to wait a little while at your destination to be picked back up. In addition, there is little room for a lot of personal belongings so passengers need to travel light.

NWTHRA vehicles are equipped to handle passengers with special needs such as wheelchair passengers. Similar to public transportation, riders will be required to pay in cash when they are picked up.

The current fare schedule for one-way fares is as follows:

* In-Town -- $0.50

* In-County -- $1.50

* Adjoining County (Inside Northwest Tennessee District) -- $3.50

* Non-adjoining County (Inside Northwest Tennessee District) -- $5

* Adjoining County (Outside Northwest Tennessee District) -- $5

* Non-adjoining County (Outside Northwest Tennessee District) -- $7.50

* Jackson -- $7.50

* Memphis or Nashville -- 12.50

Bradberry noted that despite the rising fuel costs the fare schedule has remained the same for a few years. He says that roughly one-fourth of the programs funding comes from the Federal Transit Administration, the original funding agency, one-fourth comes from the state budget and the remaining one-half comes from contract revenue through health insurance companies.

"There has always been a misconception that this is a program for senior citizens," said Bradberry. "That's not true. This is transportation available for everyone."

For more information please call 1-877-557-4337 or visit NWTHRA on the web at http://www.nwthratransit.org.

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