LATS seeing benefits from agreement with LPS
Lawton Area Transit System’s collaboration with Lawton Public Schools has been so successful, other mass transit systems are asking for advice.
An idea that started in summer 2016 and grew to maturity as a spring semester pilot program in January 2017 with 2,982 students has almost doubled the amount of secondary students using LATS to get to school — and to many other places they need to go. For LPS adults, the growth is even more startling. When the idea of letting LPS staff ride LATS for free by simply showing their district identification card began in April 2017, 32 adults took the district up on its offer.
In April 2019, 525 LPS adults used the system to get to work, compared to 724 the month before.
LPS administrators are pleased by the usage, but admit they were surprised.
“Adults are using it. That’s one thing that caught us off guard,” said Trae Koch, director of transportation for Lawton Public Schools.
Ryan Landers, general manager for LATS, said the idea of helping LPS get its students — and later, staff — to and from school has blossomed into a reality that helps both entities.
“I would agree with the assessment that we were kinda surprised by how quickly it turned out to be such a good program,” he said, calling the increase in ridership “astronautical. “I couldn’t imagine getting to that point this fast (LATS increased from 49,186 total riders in 2017 to 63,637 in 2018 and is on track to top that figure in 2019).
“Kids love the service. Administrators and staff love the service. It has taken off. And, it will only improve.”
Part of the allure — and something Landers argued as he and others negotiated the details of the LATS-LPS agreement — is that the collaboration is training a new generation to be comfortable using mass transit. Middle school riders of today will become adult riders of tomorrow, said Landers and Barbara Ellis, assistant superintendent of business services for LPS.