More East Tennesseans turn to mass transit

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Mass transit use is on the rise in Knoxville, simply due to high gas prices.

Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb spoke with many of the riders Monday as he went along for a ride.

The Knoxville Area Transit estimates they will have a ten percent increase in ridership when their fiscal year ends next week. The people I spoke to agreed a lot with each other that gasoline was a huge factor why they were riding. Some have even sold their cars and are using a bicycle and KAT.

A lot more people are taking advantage of Knoxville's mass transit.

"In February I was the only rider and now there are typically anywhere between two and four people," commuter Kevin Maddox said.

But that's just one route in a system of many routes.

"So there are several hundred people who have discovered KAT in the last few months," KAT Director of Marketing Belinda Woodiel-Brill said.

Which amounts to about a ten percent increase in the last year.
For Ronnie Henderson, using KAT was a decision he made two years ago.

"Basically you just have to plan your trips and be a little more organized but other than that it's not a problem," Henderson said.

But for many people, gas prices have just become too great an issue.

"Actually, I don't even have a car right now. I sold it. I mean, my work and everywhere I need to get to I can get to by bus," Henderson said.

More riders means less seats available but KAT officials say there's still plenty of room.

"In some cases we may be putting larger busses on routes where we had smaller busses," Woodiel-Brill said.

Some riders say they don't see it as being more crowded but just more friends to have.

"Actually, it's fun because you get to talk to different people and you learn different things," commuter Amanda Wells said.

As gas prices continue to rise, so too could ridership even more. That could be bad news for the used car salesman.

"I didn't have too much trouble budgeting for the price of gas then and honestly, I don't know if I could afford to have one right now," Maddox said.

While you may be feeling the urge to use KAT, they are also feeling the crunch at the pumps.

"If you imagine if you have one car. Imagine one hundred of those that get about three miles to the gallon," Woodiel-Brill said.

But the big question now will be will fares for Knoxville Area Transit go up? Despite the price of gas going up, they haven't had a rate increase since 2006.
They expect a discussion and a decision on that later this year.

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