By Emily Crowe
Macrina Christian works nearly five miles from her home, and without a vehicle, she relies on the people she says are like her “best friends” at Clovis Area Transit System to give her a lift.
“I do a lot of walking, so it’s nice to ride,” said Christian, who even gave snacks and treats to CATS employees at Christmastime.
“It’s more of a family thing,” she said. “Once you get to know them, everyone’s really close.”
CATS is a demand-response bus system that allows the general public to make a reservation for a ride and be picked up and dropped off anywhere within city limits.
“We have a total of 10 drivers,” said CATS Director Mary Lou Kemp. “We also have four administrative staff and many times those people are out driving as well.”
The bus service is funded through a federal grant, as well as city of Clovis funds, and the service’s shared-ride system allows operators to keep the cost low for riders.
According to Kemp, CATS riders range from college students to those attending work and doctor appointments.
While CATS is currently unable to run fixed routes, Kemp said it is something that she is always considering.
“Being a demand-response (system) so we can schedule where our busses are going to be,” she said, “it gives us a little more flexibility as to what we can do.”
“They’re real busy a lot of the time, but they accommodate,” said Christian. “I have yet to see them get angry or upset if you have to change. They’re always accommodating and they’re always there for you.”
CATS had nearly 68,000 trips for calendar year 2013, Kemp said, and has seen increased ridership, as well as new riders throughout the city.
Further south, Portales Area Transit ran 2,000 trips for the month of December, and averages between 1,500 and 3,000 trips per month, according to dispatcher and administrator Tina Nielsen.
While the closing of Sunland, Inc. has caused a slight decrease in riders on the Portales bus system, Nielsen said there has been an overall increase in riders recently.
Nielsen said a majority of bus riders are getting to and from work, but the reasons for riding vary greatly.
One thing Nielsen would like to see is a way to transport residents between Portales and Clovis for doctor appointments and the like.