Re-branding of KATS service for disabled aims to spur ridership

Matthew Lane • Nov 29, 2012 at 11:46 AM

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Area Transit Service has renamed and re-branded its ADA/Paratransit service to “Dial-A-Ride,” complete with a new logo and marketing effort to help spur interest in the service and to better reflect the broader nature of the program.

KATS operates six fixed bus routes throughout the Model City, Monday through Friday, along with the ADA/Paratransit service, which is an origin-to-destination, next-day transportation service for residents with a disability or health-related condition that prevents them from independently boarding a regular, fixed-route bus.

For the majority of Kingsport citizens, the cost of the service is $2 per one-way trip.

Last week, Kingsport announced the ADA/Paratransit service would be renamed “Dial-A-Ride” and a new marketing effort would be undertaken to help inform the public of this change and what it means to them.

“We believe the re-branding effort better reflects the service we offer, providing excellent curb-to-curb service for any individual with mobility challenges,” said Transit Coordinator Jack Qualls. “KATS hopes this new name and logo will be more recognizable to the community and spark interest for those in need of mobility assistance.”

Two to three years ago, Kingsport re-branded the fixed route service of KATS with a new logo, marketing effort and made all the buses the same style. Chris McCartt, assistant to the city manager, said residents were able to better identify and access the service, and as a result, ridership has hit record levels the past two years.

However, ADA/Paratransit usage has been declining since 2008 with only 12,661 riders in 2012.

“While we were not looking at (the ADA/Paratransit service) much then, we recognized internally we needed to re-brand it as well,” McCartt said.

“We saw that we had the capacity with the existing fleet and had the ability to add additional riders to the service.”

All KATS “Dial-A-Ride” customers must be certified by the city’s transit agency before scheduling a ride, and as McCartt points out, the service is available not only for residents with a permanent medical condition, but people with temporary ones as well.

“In talking with the public and existing riders of the service, the problem we identified is there’s an impression out there that in order to qualify you have to be wheelchair-bound, blind or unable to obtain a driver’s license,” McCartt said.

While all of the above would qualify riders, the “Dial-A-Ride” service is also available to people who have temporary medical conditions, such as those who are rehabilitating a leg or hip injury or being restricted from driving an automobile.

“We will be having conversations with the medical community about this service and helping them better understand what we provide in the hopes of directing folks to utilize the service,” McCartt said.

“A big part of our strategy is we want to make sure folks who have a temporary disability understand the service.”

The re-branding is currently under way; new logos have been placed on the lift-equipped vans and McCartt said commercials are expected to be aired on Channel 16 and other cable networks in the near future.

“Over the course of the next six months to a year, we hope to see the same results of the fixed route system come to fruition for the “Dial-A-Ride” service,” McCartt said.

“Dial-A-Ride” operates Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., excluding major holidays. To qualify for the service, a completed application must be submitted to KATS.

Applications can be picked up from the KATS office at 201 W. Market St., downloaded online at www.kingsporttransit.org, or simply call and request one to be mailed to your address.

For assistance completing the Dial-A-Ride application or to schedule service, call KATS at (423) 224-2613.

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