Tired of KAT excusesI am tired of the continued excuses from Knoxville Area Transit, from city officials, from county officials, and even from some (though by no means all) bus drivers as to why it is I had to be three hours late this morning. I was trying to catch my normal bus downtown this morning at 8:50am. When the driver came, I was informed that the wheelchair lift on the bus did not work, and they’d be sending someone out immediately to pick me up. I figured it would probably take around 20 minutes. I waited yet another hour, only to be told again that the lift was not working on the next bus that came through. I told the driver that an hour ago this happened and I was told that someone would be out right away to get me, and no one came. I saw the driver in question radio KAT to get a van out to Inskip right away, and they said they would. “Right away” turned into yet another hour.
By the time the 10:50 came through, it was a driver who knew me, and of course he felt terribly about the situation. He radioed in and told them to “get their ass” out to get me, that I had been waiting for well over two hours. A van finally came to pick me up around 20 minutes later.
I might just be an irate (and late) ordinary KAT rider if it were not for the fact that this has become a common situation. Eight times in the last two months, I have been late for appointments, meetings, business engagements, and even lunch because of wheelchair lifts on busses that are not functional.
At least one driver told me “well, David, you just need to use the LIFT van.” Hogwash. I live right on the bus line, and I should be able to use the same bus that is available to anyone else who lives on that street that wants to use it. I am not a second-class citizen whose civic services must be segregated. I should not have to call LIFT and schedule a special pickup when there is a bus that comes to my driveway at ten minutes to the top of the hour nine times every weekday. There is no excuse for a bus fleet as small as KAT’s (yes, KAT’s fleet of actual busses is SMALL) not to have every wheelchair lift on every bus working each and every morning. That’s not to say that situations won’t happen out on the road-say a hydraulic pump on a lift might bust-but the same two busses came by my stop (I checked the numbers) and that means that the lift wasn’t working at the start of the day. Check the bloody thing! Have a mechanic check it every morning-is it that hard?
“But David, Knoxville is a smaller town than a lot of places who have more reliable and accessible transit. Knoxville doesn’t have the money to have more efficient transit.”
I hear this line all the time too. It is a load of crap. We do not have better transit, in large part because up until now, people assumed we didn’t need it. Now that gas is about to be $3.00 a gallon, a whole lot more people will be riding KAT. If KAT can afford to build a huge new transit center downtown, it can afford to keep the wheelchair lifts on its busses fixed and ready to run every day, and KAT can also afford to expand its hours of service-every part of this city should be served by at least one (preferably more than that) late running bus every night. If KAT has the money for that bus station, they have the money to begin to turn KAT into a real public transit system.
Since more and more people are riding KAT, and that number will grow with the price of gas and oil, it does make you wonder if Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam sees KAT as a priority. After all, if KAT improves, more people will use it, and that means fewer people will be frequenting the family business to pay $3.00 a gallon for Haslam gas (which fluctuates depending on the station, even though it all comes from the same place), don’t you think, Bill? Boy, I smell “conflict of interest” all over the place-sure smells funky.
In most cities, the transit system is either a function of County government, or an inter-county agency. Are you hearing me, County Mayor Mike Ragsdale? Since Mr. Haslam refuses to do his job and step up to the plate, perhaps you need to do it for him-an expanded transit system really benefits Knox County, because so many people live in the County and commute to work every day. Knowing this, perhaps Mayor Ragsdale needs to take charge, rather than leaving Mr. Haslam as the appropriator for our public transit.
Nashville has better transit than Knoxville, so does Memphis. Chattanooga even does a better job than Knoxville in this regard in many ways. Knoxville is our State’s third largest city, it was once our State capital, and it is home to the State’s largest and most prestigious public university, and we can’t even have a decent and accessible bus system.That is beyond ridiculous-that is just plain incompetent.