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Board balks at KAT request
Town leaders slate more KAT talk for July 11 FBMA meeting


Farragut residents voiced their frustrations about Knoxville Area Transit’s intention to close the Farragut Express during the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, Thursday, June 26.

The possible elimination of the bus service was announced to Mayor W. Edward “Eddy” Ford III Friday, June 13.

“[Knox County] Mayor [Bill] Haslam called me last Friday and told me, just out of a courtesy, that this was being discussed and there was a possibility that the route would be discontinued,” Ford said.

The Express travels from Campbell Station Road to downtown and back each day, offering two trips from Farragut in the morning and four from downtown in the afternoon.

“Our current ridership is anywhere from 50-to-60 individuals every morning, and that does not include the U-T students who travel during U-T sessions,” said Farragut resident Jane Hawkinson.

“The average miles we would save per year would be approximately 250,000 … at 20 miles per gallon, that would come to about 26,000 gallons of fuel we would save every year by not driving,” she added.

An e-mail sent to associate Town administrator Gary Palmer from KAT Director of Marketing and Development Belinda Woodiel-Brill stated ridership of the Farragut Express was up 29 percent in May from 2007.

“Projections for June indicate ridership may be up as high as 34 percent over last June,” Woodiel-Brill said.

“The existence of the Farragut Express was one of the primary reasons that I chose to live in the town of Farragut,” said Gerald Derthick, who works for The University of Tennessee.

As an employee of UT, Derthick gets reduced fare on the bus.

“My understanding is that The University of Tennessee does provide a subsidy to KAT enabling me to buy a term pass to use the bus service,” Derthick said.

These term passes cost $35 each for the spring and fall terms and $20 for the summer term.

“We have over 12,000 people that leave the town of Farragut every day and go to work in Oak Ridge and other places, and they’re not being subsidized one cent,” Ford said.

“We’re talking about a very small population of riders of the KAT service,” he added.

Alderman John Williams asked what Derthick would be willing to personally pay to ride the bus.

“I would expect a typical thing [to be] between two to three dollars a day each way … up to five to six dollars a day would probably be a fair charge,” Derthick said.

Currently, the charge is $1.25 each way or $40 for a monthly pass for the general public.

“I think the riders would be very willing to make compromises in rates that are meaningful,” said Ron Slone.

Palmer said KAT was looking for funding.

“Their report really looked at the money they would need to keep the program going … they didn’t come right out and state that they were going to ask for money, but it was kind of insinuated,” he said.

Palmer had been working to expand the park-and-ride lot before KAT’s announcement.

“They were clear in saying that if they receive alternative funding sources, they would look at keeping the service,” he added.

David Twiggs, a Loudon County resident, urged Board members to work with KAT to keep the bus service.

“At this particular time, when society at large … is wrestling with the high cost of gasoline, it sets such a horrible example for us to let something die that is fundamentally the solution to our problem,” he said.

“That public transportation will become more and more important as the price of oil increases is something everyone in government should take to heart, but how far we can go as the town of Farragut, we’ll just have to see,” Ford said.

The Board moved to add discussion of the Farragut Express route closure to the Thursday, July 11 agenda. KAT is holding a public hearing and vote on the matter Thursday, July 24.

 

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