It began almost 45 years ago with one man who had the idea to bring affordable public transportation to Sedalia and surrounding counties.
Today, the OATS Transportation continues that idea, traveling 438,728 miles in Pettis County last year alone.
In 1971, Sedalia resident, Carl Franklin, recognized a need in the community.
“The old city cabs back then were in horrible shape,” Franklin said. “I don’t think it was really anybody’s fault, but there just wasn’t a good way for people who didn’t have cars of their own, or who couldn’t drive any longer to get around.
“I was on the city council and I had brought it up a few times, but I didn’t get a lot of response from the mayor at the time,” Franklin added. “He said I could look into it and see if I could do anything with it.”
Franklin did something with the challenge and his work, along with that of other volunteers, led to the OATS Transportation service arriving in Pettis County. Today the organization is in 87 Missouri counties.
Thirteen of those counties make up the Midwest Region which Pettis County is a part of, according to Regional Director Tracy Walkup.
“OATS provides public transportation for everyone,” Walkup said. “Last year in the counties we cover we traveled 13,449,664 miles and Pettis County is one of the largest that we serve.
“People really love our program,” Walkup added. “It’s because we really do provide safe, on-time transportation at an affordable price.”
More than 74,200 trips were taken last year, according to a report provided by Walkup. Those trips included purposes as varied as employment stops, educational trips to State Fair Community College and Head Start and medical as well as recreational stops.
“We provide a wide variety of services to the community,” Walkup said. “There is no one typical rider when you consider that we serve young children who attend the Head Start Program, to workers who are going to their jobs daily and individuals who are going to the Senior Center to eat or to a doctor’s appointment.
“All anyone has to do is call us at least 24 hours in advance to schedule a ride,” Walkup said. “It’s best if they call as far in advance as possible because some days we are at capacity and it may be difficult to accommodate the ride.”
Individuals may set up standing orders and the service will pick them up daily at the scheduled time.
“We probably have 800 standing riders in a day,” Walkup said. “The only thing we ask is that they call if they know they are not going to be able to make the trip on any given day.”
A round-trip ticket is $5.
“We charge our riders $2.50 one way but it doesn’t matter how far their destination is within the state,” Walkup said. “We schedule long distance trips to Kansas City and Columbia a few times a month but we will try to accommodate any rider.”
Individuals who choose to ride one of the two city busses, operated by OATS, may purchase discount passes for $5 for four rides and $10 for eight rides, or $1.25 for a one-way trip.
The city buses run from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. City buses do not run Sundays.
Franklin said he was pleased with what has become of the program since its founding.
“When I started this, I was known statewide and I think that really helped to get this done,” Franklin said. “I glad to see how it has really grown and is helping others.”
To schedule a ride through OATS, call 827-2611.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484