LATS may cut Saturday service
Lawton's mass transit system has proposed changes that would cut service on Saturdays, but city officials said a final decision has not been made.
Members of the City Council, acting in their capacity as the City Transit Trust, voted last week to open a 90-day comment period on proposals to reduce service on Saturdays and the number of buses that take riders onto Fort Sill. Those changes were suggested to address a harsh reality for the transit system: Its buses are so old they can't be counted on to continue fixed route service as it exists today, said Ryan Landers, LATS general manager, and Deborah Jones, the City of Lawton's mass transit liaison.
Landers and Jones said action approved last week by the City Transit Trust was merely giving them permission to solicit input from those who use the system, with those comments to be used to solidify their recommendations or make other changes to operations.
"We have to go through public participation to get as much feedback as possible," Landers said.
Mass transit officials are offering only two basic changes, but they could have significant impact depending on the number of riders they affect. But, Jones and Landers said these changes were suggested specifically because they would affect fewer riders.
The first change would reduce the Orange Route, which provides service in north Lawton and on Fort Sill, to one bus a day on the six days LATS operates. The second change is focused on Saturdays: Three hours would be trimmed from operational hours, meaning the system would close at 6 p.m. rather than 9 p.m.; and Red, Green, Blue and Orange routes would be reduced to one bus each, allowing only the Yellow Route to retain two buses (Yellow East and Yellow West).
The changes would go into effect after July 1 if they are accepted by the City Transit Trust.
Landers and Jones said the changes reflect the reality of operations.
"The main reason is our fleet, on our maintenance side, is just becoming too much to handle," Landers said. "Our current fleet is well past its useful life. We needed to figure out how to keep our current fleet on the road to make sure we have some type of service. It makes it hard when our buses keep breaking down."
Jones said the system is taking a chance because so many of its aging buses may break down at the same time that more significant cuts will have to be made because there aren't enough vehicles to run all fixed routes. While LATS did buy used buses from other mass transit systems, only a few still are operational. And a lack of operational buses means there aren't as many standby buses when route buses have to go through maintenance.
"We cannot perform maintenance on them," she said.