Rolling Out New Transportation

Jan 1, 2023 | community, Portfolio, Woodstock

Thanks to innovations by some key Cherokee County leaders, “Metro Meets the Mountains” with new propane-powered vehicles for the Cherokee Area Transportation System [CATS]. The new vehicles provide environmental and financial benefits for residents and taxpayers.

CATS provides transportation for county residents who have difficulty securing their own transportation. It has been a service of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners since 2007 with funding provided by Cherokee County, the State of Georgia, and the Federal Transit Administration.

CURRENT CATS PROGRAMS

Two services are available for Cherokee County residents through the CATS program.

  1. Fixed Route: This program runs Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., including two preset schedules with stops throughout the city of Canton. The Fixed Route fare is $1.25 for adults and $.60 for seniors, Medicare holders, and disabled passengers.
  2. Demand Response: This program runs Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on a destination-to-origin basis with stops at pre-scheduled locations within Cherokee County. The Demand Response fare is $1.50 for the first five miles and $.30 per mile thereafter for all patrons.

One of the new CATS buses stops for passenger transfers in front of Walmart Supercenter, located at 1550 Riverstone Parkway in Canton. For fixed route schedules, visit CherokeeGA.com/Transportation or download the Moovit app.

POWERING FORWARD WITH PROPANE

Cherokee County became the first county in Georgia to engage propane-powered buses for public transportation in October. CATS purchased three of these vehicles from Coach and Equipment Bus Sales in February 2022 to replace outdated units in the Fixed Route service fleet. To date two of the buses are in service, and the third is awaiting delivery. In celebration the county held a formal ribbon-cutting event on October 18 with CATS team members, leaders from the Propane Education & Research Council, and ROUSH CleanTech, the Detroit-based alternative-fuel manufacturer of the propane engines.

Cherokee County Transportation Director Greg Powell leads county representatives and community leaders in cutting the ceremonial ribbon on October 18. (Photo Courtesy of Erika Neldner, Cherokee County Communications Director)

Greg Powell, transportation director for Cherokee County, led the initiative to acquire propane-powered buses for the county to take advantage of the federal funding opportunities available for green transportation and public transit. After conducting research, Greg collaborated with Bryan Reynolds, Community Services Agency director, and Geoff Morton, county manager, before making the decision and bringing it to the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners for approval.

STAKEHOLDER BENEFITS

Environmental and financial benefits of propane-powered engines include lower maintenance costs and reduced harmful emissions, making them a popular choice for high-mileage vehicles across the country. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, when compared with vehicles fueled by conventional diesel or gasoline, propane engines produce lower amounts of some harmful air pollutants and greenhouse gases, depending on vehicle type, drive cycle, and engine calibration. The Propane Education & Research Council estimates nearly sixty thousand current propane vehicles with certified fuel systems are in service across the United States. Many are used as school buses, police vehicles, and public transportation services similar to CATS.

ROUSH CleanTech’s Gen-5 propane system was integrated into the Ford 7.3-liter engines of CATS vehicles. In a Cherokee County Communications Division press release, Todd Mouw, the executive vice president of sales for ROUSH CleanTech, stated, “ROUSH CleanTech’s advanced propane autogas technology is helping states like Georgia tackle their air-quality problems and budget challenges by operating economical, emissions-reducing buses.”

Todd Mouw of ROUSH CleanTech speaks during the CATS ribbon-cutting ceremony. He was joined by ROUSH CleanTech Executive Director Randy Veenhoven and Propane Education & Research Council Director of Autogas Business Development Steve Whaley to celebrate Georgia’s first propane-powered transit buses. (Photo Courtesy of Erika Neldner, Cherokee County Communications Director)

Steve Whaley, director of autogas business development for the Propane Education & Research Council, said, “We’re proud to add Cherokee County to the growing list of paratransit fleets across this country that are operating with propane auto-gas. Cherokee County is prioritizing providing a safe, clean ride for their community while lowering operating costs. It’s a win for environmental sustainability and a win for [the county’s] financial sustainability.”

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS 

Since its inception CATS has worked extensively with organizations such as Empower Cherokee and the Cherokee County Senior Center. Empower Cherokee is a nonprofit social services organization that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In the mornings and afternoons, the Cherokee County Senior Center operates in conjunction with programs from Georgia’s Department of Human Services.

Director of Cherokee County Senior Services Tim Morris says, “Transportation is such a big need, one of the number-one things that’s asked for here.” Morris estimates about forty seniors a week arrive at the center by way of CATS, resulting in pick-up or drop-off trip services totaling about 160 a week and 650 a month.

Loyal patron Mary Jo offers gratitude for the services CATS provides to her and fellow seniors stating, “They’re friendly and helpful. I’m so appreciative that they help me on and off the bus. I just love them.”

The Demand Response service serves a growing clientele, currently estimated at twenty patrons at 150 trips a month. Tim states, “We have a great partnership with CATS. We’re very close with its staff. The communication between the two staffs—I’ve been in this for thirty years—it’s one of the best. They’re across the street [from us], but we can’t do anything that we do without them. They’re everything to us. Without them there would be a lot of seniors sitting at home.”

The Cherokee Chamber of Commerce is also gaining significant benefits from a CATS partnership as the first organization to advertise on the side of the new propane-powered buses. Chamber President and CEO Pam Carnes shares, “Our goal was to be, if not the first, one of the very first advertisers on the road, because we knew it could create more excitement and awareness for Destination Cherokee GA [the Chamber’s tourism branch]. We feel like it gives us a different opportunity to market to the community.”

Other local businesses and organizations that wish to explore advertising opportunities on the new vehicles can do so through a variety of size and duration options available through Tri-State Communications, the parent company of Enjoy Cherokee. Interested parties should contact Bill West, vice president of sales, at Bill@WLJAradio.com.

EASY WITH AN APP

Cherokee residents can download the free app, Moovit, to their phones to easily navigate the two CATS programs. More than 930 million users in some 3,400 cities worldwide use Moovit, a public transit app. Through the app users can see maps and schedules, check real-time arrivals, pay their fares, map walking directions from their current location, and more.

Passenger Catalina Garcia of Canton catches a ride with CATS on a cold, damp November morning.

The inclusion of the Moovit app illustrates CATS’s dedication to technological advancements that align with and complement the economically sound and environmentally friendly adoption of propane-powered vehicles in a continued commitment to help Cherokee County residents and visitors “go where they want to go” throughout the county.

Director of Cherokee County Senior Services Tim Morris says, “Transportation is such a big need, one of the number-one things that’s asked for here.”

For more information about CATS transportation programs, call 770-345-6238 or visit CherokeeGA.com/Transportation.

BUS WRAP ADVERTISING

For bus wrap advertising opportunities, contact Bill West with Tri-State Communications at Bill@WLJAradio.com.

This article was originally featured in the January/February issue of Enjoy Cherokee Magazine. Read it online here.

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