Commerce Park is latest addition to PATS bus route

Paducah resident Betty Cooper, 81, steps onto a Paducah Area Transit Systems bus Saturday afternoon. PATS has added a new bus route through Commerce Park in West Paducah, in hopes that it will be easier for people like Cooper to travel locally at an affordable cost. The route begins at 6:45 a.m., with drop off at the park at 8 a.m. Return routes begin at 5:30 p.m.

THOMAS DEAN STEWART | The Sun

The addition of a new Paducah Area Transit System bus route to Commerce Park, which will help provide reliable transportation for workers employed there, is a communitywide effort, agencies involved say.

On Monday, PATS began a route to and from the park (formerly known as Information Age Park) west of Paducah.

Representatives of several businesses located in Commerce Park have been working with PATS and Greater Paducah Economic Development, among others, to establish the transportation option for their employees.

While the route has been running only a week, plans for establishing such a route have been in the works for a long time, according to Arthur Boykin, PATS executive director.

'It's been a part of our long-range plan," Boykin said. "We'd like to extend routes to as many businesses as we can because that's what we're here for, to support the public and complement anyone who needs transportation for their job."

The current route begins at 6:45 a.m., with drop off at the park at 8 a.m. Return routes begin at 5:30 p.m. PATS can provide additional routes if necessary, Boykin said.

Heather Pierce, project manager for GPED, has helped to coordinate the Commerce Park route.

"One of the main missions of GPED is to assist our current employers in retention and expansion efforts," she said.

"Transportation to work is difficult for people in our community. That difficulty leads to problems such as employee retention and absenteeism, and other issues in the workplace.

"This project is an example of the business development gains that can be made by employer-driven projects. "

Because the need for transportation is a workplace issue, GPED reached out to the West Kentucky Workforce Board for assistance.

"This new bus route is an example of what can happen when employers and our local leaders come together to solve a problem for the benefit of its residents," said Mary Anne Medlock, the board's business liaison.

"The route has just begun, but we can already see the positive impact it is having on the lives of those it is serving."

Representatives of businesses in Commerce Park applaud the new transportation option.

One of them, Kim Jones, human resources manager for LYNX Services, cites the example of one employee who has been with the company since 2015

"Transportation has always been a challenge for her," Jones said. "Every day she walks to the PATS terminal and rides the bus as far as the line will take her -- the Anderson Technical Building on the West Kentucky Community and Technical College campus.

"The final mile of her journey requires her to take a taxi -- at a cost of $6 each way. The combined cost of her bus pass and taxi is $67.50 per week."

According to Boykin, the Commerce Park route costs riders $2 a day ($1 inbound, $1 outbound). Riders also can purchase a bus pass for $30 a month which would allow them to ride any additional routes they wish.

PATS would like to see the number of riders to the park increase to at least 10 per day, Boykin said. "We hope that more people will see it (the route) as dependable transportation and more of them will begin to utilize it," he said.

The three main pickup points along the route are the Southside Walmart, Hannan Plaza and Cardinal Point.

However, riders also can get on the bus at the main terminal, the Dollar General on Jackson Street, and the back entrance to Kentucky Oaks Mall to get to Commerce Park, according to Boykin.

Jeremie Light is senior service delivery manager, operations, at TTECH, another Commerce Park business.

"The transportation addition of having PATS coming out to Commerce Park is a great resource for us," he said.

"Not only are we able to assist people that would not have been able to keep employment due to transportation, but it also adds to our toolbox to help recruit more of the community that may have transportation needs."

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